South African students to stage national college shutdown

Posted by News Express | 19 January 2017 | 2,132 times

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South Africa’s Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

Vocational training students in South Africa have vowed to shut down the country’s 50 technical and vocational education and training colleges.

On Wednesday, the students cited poor infrastructure, the ban on political groupings on campuses, unqualified lecturers and massive certificate backlogs as the prime reasons for the nationwide standoff with the government. A total shutdown will affect the colleges’ registration process, which began on Monday.

South African Further Education and Training Student Association president Yonke Twani said students took the resolution to shut down campuses on December 8 2016 after the Department of Higher Education and Training had failed to respond to their complaints in the past five years.

“We have been engaging the department since 2012 to work together with us to address these issues because we did not want to see anarchy on our campuses, but the department have been giving us very foolish responses,” said Twani.

On Wednesday, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande called for all involved to engage in discussions with his department and college administrations.

The department has always punted the colleges as an alternative for those students who fail to go to university. Altogether 207,510 students are expected to be enrolled in 2017.

Nzimande said the department had inherited a very mixed bag, because some of the provinces had done better than others in ensuring that the sector expanded to accommodate the many thousands of previously excluded young people.

But Twani expressed discontent at how the department was lackadaisical in handling issues of technical and vocational education and training colleges, pointing out that public university students did not have to deal with the burden of poor infrastructure and delayed certificates. “We want the same treatment,” he said.

Nzimande said the department was determined not to let the shutdown to go on for long. He said his department was working with the college authorities and other relevant institutions, such as the sector education and training authorities, to rectify the deficiencies.

Nzimande announced last week that three technical and vocational education and training campuses would open in 2017 to absorb more matriculants who could not get access to university education.

Nzimande said the college budget for the 2017-18 financial year amounted to R19.8bn, leaving an estimated R10.7bn shortfall, based on the current baseline allocation of just more than R9bn. The estimated total shortfall over the medium term was R43bn.

The National Students Financial Aid Scheme reopened the application window for college students on January 9. It will close on February 14.

DA spokeswoman for higher education and training Belinda Bozzoli has called for the intervention of the portfolio committee on higher education and training.

Bozzoli said she would seek swift and appropriate action on the situation, not “promises”.

•Source: Business Day (South Africa)

Source: News Express

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