Busloads of students belonging to the SA Students Congress (Sasco) gathered outside the Pretoria City Hall last Friday before marching on the higher education department’s offices.
Sasco are demanding fully subsidised higher education for all financially needy and academically deserving students.
About 2500 students from campuses across Gauteng joined the march, where a memorandum of demands was handed over to a government official.
“The memorandum of demands was given to the department to remind them that students are here and are not going anywhere in our demand for fully subsidised education,” said Morris Masutha, Wits SRC president and chairperson of the Wits Sasco branch.
The students have slated higher education minister Blade Nzimande for making little progress in the two years that he has been in office.
Earlier this year Nzimande announced that an additional R150-million had been allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to focus on addressing scarce skills.
He said the department has set aside R22.9-million that would be dedicated to funding 820 first year students and R7-million towards a special bursary scheme targeting rural students who had done exceptionally well in the 2010 Grade 12 examinations.
However, students say the department has failed them by not implementing these resolutions properly.
“Last year there was a ministerial review committee on the National Skills Fund (NSF) which had specific recommendations to the minister. These recommendations are very clear and we are fully in support of what is left for him to implement,” said Masutha. “It shouldn’t be our job to remind him what he needs to do.”
Sasco is now waiting for a response from the department and is adamant that they will not give up until their demands are met.
“Year in and year out students are kicked out when they can’t afford to pay for their tuition, and it is Blade’s responsibility to implement what he started,” said Masutha, who promised to pay the minister another unexpected visit if he continues to “underperform”.
“I have a degree and am not scared of activism,” said Masutha. “This is one cause we will not back down on.”