Department Hoping For No Disruptions At Universities In 2023
Recently, the readiness of the Department of Higher Education and Training for the forthcoming academic year was questioned. The apparent holes in the Department’s presentation prompted numerous enquiries from the Parliamentary Committee of South Africa.
The Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) plans for the 2023 academic year were recently held under a microscope and questioned about its readiness for the new year.
During November 2022, a meeting was held where South Africa’s Parliamentary Committee raised a serious of concerns after noting apparent “gaps” in the DHET’s presentation that explained the plans for tertiary education in the new year.
The Committee, the Department and various stakeholders gathered for a briefing on the Department’s state of readiness for the 2023 academic year. Each stakeholder presented its role as it relates to the sector, the challenges experienced and some recommendations were made.
As per the reports received from universities, 16 institutions experienced protests at the start of the 2022 academic year.
Matters raised by students that led to protests and shutdowns included:
- Receiving NSFAS allowances in a timely manner
- Registration of students with debt
- Funding of postgraduate studies
- Online examinations
- Assessments of marks captured incorrectly and adjustments of marks from the previous year
- Calls for the extension of the registration period
- Calls for physical graduations post Covid-19
- Payment of rental allowances to non-accredited accommodation providers
The ongoing protest action has been a long-time coming, and has resulted in students being suspended from certain institutions.
Back in August 2022, students at the University of Pretoria (UP) staged a university shutdown in protest against the institution’s planned registration fee increases for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the 2023/2024 academic years.
UP Student Representative Council (SRC) President Thuto Mashila explained that in response to the protest action against the increase in registration fees, the university had suspended seven members of the SRC; these members were not allowed on the university premises and had been given a notice to vacate the university campus residences as well.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) had a student protest in February of this year, resulting in the pausing of academic activities for a week.
According to some of the students who were complaining, the university was demanding that 15% of their outstanding fees and registration fees be paid before they can register for their academic courses. UKZN said that it hadn’t received a list of NSFAS funded students, and most students in public universities are state-funded.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) indicated an increase in the number of students who qualify for funding, in both universities and colleges, but the issue still lies with accurately projecting the costs needed to fund students enrolled in TVET Colleges.
The financial aid entity also proposed direct payments to students, to avoid the persistence of late payments by institutions, which has often resulted in many unrests from frustrated students.
NSFAS has actually stated that for 2023, the entity is planning for a “delay-free” year.
The Committee appealed to both the Department and stakeholders to close any weaknesses that might jeopardize the commencement of the academic year, indicating that the dissatisfaction of workers on issues such as salary increments had the potential to cause unrest at the start of the new year.