Latest developments at universities and TVET colleges: SAUS & SATVETSA briefing

Higher Education, Science and Innovation

07 March 2023
Chairperson: Ms N Mkhatshwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


In an urgent meeting, the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation was briefed by the South African Technical and Vocational Education and Training Students Association and the South African Union of Students on the latest developments at universities and TVET colleges. This in light of a resurgence of protests at some universities over lack of accommodation and unpaid fees, among others. The protests have often turned violent and led to the destruction of property.

Details were provided in the briefings of the protests at various educational institutions in the country. The current issues faced by the students involved delays in the availability of allowances, the pending results, the delay in providing banking cards, the delays in the hearing of appeals, the lack of backup generators for computer laboratories, and the misinterpretation of guidelines.

Members raised concerns about the exploitation of students by the various institutions and service providers over student accommodation costs. There had to be a proper audit of how many students or student leaders may be affected by some sort of intimidation by the management of universities and colleges. These matters had to be addressed permanently to ensure they did not recur. The Committee agreed that there should be more stakeholder engagements, and that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme should approach the Competition Commission to regulate the sector, particularly student accommodation.

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks

The Chairperson said that there had been a meeting on the 2023 academic year state of readiness with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the South African Technical Vocational Education and Training Students Association, SATVETSA, the South African Union of Students (SAUS), the Universities South Africa (USAf) and the South African Public Colleges Organisation (SAPCO). The Committee had also embarked on a two-week oversight visit, during which it visited various institutions of higher learning in KwaZulu-Natal (KXN), Limpopo and Mpumalanga. There had been some unrest at the University of Zululand. There was also a protest regarding water provision at the Umfolozi TVET College. The Committee had been alerted to this and its direct impact on the institutions. It had witnessed that there was not much stakeholder engagement. At Capricorn TVET College, there was an understanding that there would be a smooth transition into the beginning of the academic year.

She said there were overarching issues in the post-school education and training (PSET) sector and NSFAS. There had been some unrest at the Seshogo campus. In Mpumalanga, there was a memorandum of demands at Ehlanzeni TVET College. There were no issues at the University of Mpumalanga. Now, post-visit, there have been some activities happening at the institutions. Many institutions were experiencing unrest, such as the Nelson Mandela University, the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, the University of Johannesburg, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Pretoria and Sol Plaatje University. It was important to engage with stakeholders to see exactly what was happening. This would allow the Committee to hold principals and vice-chancellors to account and make recommendations to help the PSET sector move forward.

There had been an update on the state of readiness for the 2023 academic year by the DHET. The Committee had tried its best not to interfere in the work of the DHET, the executives and senior management at the TVET colleges and universities, and to allow the PSET sector to do its work. If there were ongoing issues, the Committee could not have its finger on the pulse of the issues of the PSET sector. The Committee wanted to assist, which was why today's meeting. The Committee wanted to hear from the students, and not second-hand from the media. Today there was a meeting with SATVETSA and SAUS, and tomorrow there would be a meeting with the DHET, USAf and SAPCO. The Committee was supposed to receive a report on the work and progress that had been made. The Committee had to see what was happening on the ground, make recommendations and ensure immediate challenges were dealt with.

She welcomed the new President of SATVETSA, Mr Genius Shabalala, and wished the entity well. The Committee was committed to advancing technical and vocational education and training. This Committee had done a lot of work to understand the demands of the PSET sector and how it could advocate for the required resources for the TVET programme to fulfil its mandate. The Committee had advocated for an increased budget for TVET colleges, greater infrastructure and financial management support, more lecturers and their capacitation, and equity in the TVET and university programmes.

The issue of allowances should also be addressed. Mr W Letsie (ANC) always made the statement that there was no difference in the price of bread, accommodation, transport or basic necessities between TVET and university students. The Committee wanted to advance the TVET programme because it had to respond to the country's social issues. There had to be a curriculum review by the DHET, and the Committee wanted to ensure that the DHET implemented these plans for review. There were skills summits and a lot of money was spent on these conferences. The recommendations made in the skills summits should be implemented.

She said that when this Committee was established back in 2019, there had been a certification backlog. The Committee had set a "day zero" certification, and great strides had been made since then. There were legacy cases where students could not be found. The Committee wanted young people in the country to be able to find their certificates and to participate in the economy and contribute to the livelihoods of their families. A lot of work that the Committee was doing was to see if the TVET programme was doing what it was supposed to do. She extended her best wishes to SATVETSA.

South African Technical Vocational Education & Training Student Association

Mr Shabalala, SATVETSA President, said there were some challenges with NSFAS and that NSFAS needed to instruct its staff on the guidelines. Some of the protests were based on misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the guidelines. The presentation would provide an update on the strikes.

The Chairperson asked Mr Shabalala to inform the Committee when the members of Association were elected and to introduce themselves, along with the provincial chairpersons.

Mr Shabalala said that they had been elected on 5 February. He introduced the members, and identified their respective TVET colleges.

The provincial chairpersons introduced themselves.

Mr Shabalala went through all the strikes in the different regions and campuses, the incidents and the interventions that had taken place, and whether the matters had been resolved. He said that the current issues faced by the students were the delay of allowances, the pending results, the delay of banking cards, the delays of appeals, the issue of backup generators for computer labs, and the misinterpretation of guidelines.

Mr Wongani Mgwali, SRC representative and Secretary General, Students Representative Council (SRC), Umfolozi College, said the reality was that students were frustrated. There was a delay with the allowances. Some students were receiving allowances and others were not. Some students' NSFAS status was changing, and others were not. The delays of appeals were frustrating, and a recent strike over this had also started. At the Buffalo City TVET College, there had been issues with misinterpreting guidelines. Some students had not passed last year, but had passed this year, and now there was an issue with funding. There were issues that, at this point, should not even be an issue. He said that he hoped solutions would be found.

(Please see presentation for further details)

South African Union of Students

Mr Lukhanyo Daweti, Secretary, SAUS, said that he would not be putting up a presentation, but would be speaking on the points he had written down.

The Chairperson said this was acceptable, but a document should be provided before the end of the day.

Mr Daweti said that the progression rule of NSFAS had been an issue. What had been agreed upon and what had been included in the rule was inconsistent, and this affected 60 000 students. Regarding the appeals, SAUS has been speaking to the chief executive officer (CEO) of NSFAS on this issue. There was an independent appeals tribunal that would consist of different representatives of the various stakeholders to look at the appeals. The Minister had also declared an increase in the allowances in a press statement, which NSFAS did not follow. This issue was also being looked at. SAUS supported the capped amount of R45 000 for student accommodation, and had even recommended it. Institutions and service providers could not exploit students. He was aware of the suspension of the SRC president at the University of Witwatersrand, and two students being arrested at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This was being looked at, and assistance would be provided.

The Chairperson asked if SRC presidents had been invited to the meeting.

Mr Daweti confirmed that this had been done, but it did take time for them to see the notices.

(Please see presentation for further details)


The Chairperson raised concern about the suspensions at the University of the Witwatersrand and the arrests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and that this had been a reality for such a long time. She asked if the DHET was aware of this. She was aware that there had been more students suspended or arrested. Students had received notices. The figure was bigger than what had been presented here today. This was a challenge that had started a couple of days ago, when students had started protesting. She asked if the specific number of students arrested could be provided. It was important for the DHET to bring the Committee into its confidence on what had happened to those students, and how many there were. There had to be a proper report on students arrested at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. More work had to be done and there also had to be a better understanding. Protests were held at the University of the Western Cape and the University of Pretoria. Some students at the University of Pretoria were also being threatened with suspension. There had to be a proper audit of how many students or student leaders may be affected by some sort of intimidation by management.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) acknowledged that this was an urgent meeting, and that the Committee could not close its eyes to what was happening in this country. These matters could not be avoided, especially in this sector. She appreciated the presentations that had been made by both SATVETSA and SAUS, and the fact that they had indicated the work they had been doing. There was a need to ensure that there was civic education regarding these protests. She had noted what had been said in the media. There had to be civic education on the need to advocate peaceful protests without damage. It was important to ensure that protests did not become criminal events, where people just vandalised as they wanted to.  

She asked whether SATVETSA had been part of the stakeholder engagement consultations that NSFAS organised on the 2023 bursary guidelines. Had all the members attended all the engagements? She commented that most of the beneficiaries or students had indicated that they were not inclined to, in terms of what was stipulated in those particular guidelines. She noted that SAUS was in support of the R45 000 cap. She was impressed that the entities understood the state of the economy and could not promote an option that would undermine democracy. She appreciated the acknowledgement of the R45 000 cap accommodation fee. She said that it indicated what this Committee had already said about the collusion of the private accommodation providers, students and institutions. There was a need for the DHET to move at speed to expose those that were exploiting students on the issue of affordable accommodation fees. She asked that the DHET, in its presentation in the following meeting, indicate the interventions that were in place to ensure that students were in class. The DHET should further indicate time frames, how far it was with engagements, and how it would stop the disruptions.

Mr T Mogale (EFF) said that he had recently joined this Committee and was surprised that it had started the year by visiting all of these institutions of higher learning to check their state of readiness and to see if the academic year was going to proceed without any challenges.

Mr Shabalala apologised for interrupting, and said there was a serious strike outside the campus where he was located, and people would be escorted from the building. He would be going offline, but the secretary-general was in the meeting to answer any questions.

Mr Mogale said that it was fine, and that he hoped everyone would be safe. Some of the reports from the visits to institutions of higher learning indicated that everything was fine. However, the student leadership were now raising all of these challenges that had been happening over the past couple of weeks, such as strikes. He was not sure whether this Committee had been given a true reflection of what was happening in those colleges and universities. He wondered whether they had been lying to the Committee about their state of readiness, and could not foresee some of the issues being raised now. He fully supported the issues being raised by the student leadership, and agreed that the NSFAS cap should be imposed to ensure that the state was not being sucked or milked dry by corrupt elements.

He said it was unfortunate that Mr Shabalala had left the meeting, because he had a clarity-seeking question. Mention had been made of rules that were not being used or interpreted correctly. Not enough information had been given on this particular issue -- he wanted a much clearer understanding of what was happening. He said that the Department could not afford to have these issues every single academic year. It was aware that students had gone on strike at the beginning of the year over the issues of NSFAS and so on. These things had to be addressed permanently to ensure they did not recur.

He said the leadership of universities should be condemned for the heavy-handed approach in which they dealt with student protests. He did not think bringing in the police and militarising the campuses in any way was going to assist in resolving the issues -- it only inflamed the situation even more. These vice-chancellors must be addressed. There should be a particular engagement with the leadership of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The leadership could not just resort to violence and threats. Someone must come to this Committee and explain what was being done. Universities were turning into war zones.

Mr S Zondo (IFP) said it was high time that the issue of management threatening students was taken seriously. These students were not raising their individual concerns, but those of all the students, and sometimes they ended up in the firing line. He had said on numerous occasions that management was abusing its powers by suppressing student leaders from raising their views and concerns. Many universities were not included in the presentation. There should be engagements with student formations to assist with the concerns and ensure that management takes them seriously, and does not suppress or fire them.

To solve these issues, politics had to be put aside. Challenges would have to be faced directly. Mr Zondo was happy that some of the Members were former leaders of student movements at university. Some of the Members knew what was happening because they had been there. One had to be fair and not protect comrades who were leading institutions, but were doing wrongs at the institution. One had to take a firm stand in fighting this and ensuring management tried to sort the issues out.

He said that the R45 000 cap for the accommodation fee was sometimes not enough, which was not because students wanted to eat the money. It was another story about how they drank and spent the money they were given. Some residences at the University of Witwatersrand cost R80 000 per year, and then there was a cap of R45 000 by NSFAS. Where did students get the money to bridge this gap? Some places asked for R60 000. He said there needed to be preparation for this. It was not about politicisation, but one had to be fair and attack the challenges head-on. There had to be engagement with residence owners, asking them to lower their prices a little. One could not say that R45 000 was fine, when it was not fine. Some challenges needed attention. The Committee had to try and mediate the situation and see how to resolve it without taking sides politically.

The Chairperson said that there had been a meeting where the issue of the cap of R45 000 on the accommodation fee had been discussed with the DHET and NSFAS. By and large, many of the Members had agreed or reached consensus that it could not normalise the rates of private accommodation service providers for student accommodation. The Committee had even questioned the universities themselves as to whether they appreciated the fact that education was a social good. If education was a social good, then any other resource that sought to support education was also a social good. Therefore, accommodation, transportation and even textbooks were a social good. Any resource that supported education was a social good. She understood that the concept of R70 000 being charged for a space that was probably smaller than a room in Acacia Park was problematic. Two students had to live in that room, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with only two-plate stoves. The Members had looked at situations like this and had asked NSFAS to assist the Committee with the research that had informed the figure of R45 000. NSFAS must also approach the Competition Commission and ensure that it is able to regulate its concerns about price fixing. This was a general conversation that had taken place two weeks ago.

She said that the Committee should caution itself to avoid any suggestions that there was a particular political posturing of this Committee, and that it was not objective in its work, and put politics first. One of the greatest characteristics of this Committee was its ability to work across political affiliations and always put forward whatever was necessary. Its concern was not only the interests of the students, but the interests of the country. She wanted to protect Members of all political parties from the insinuation that certain politics were being put forward. As Chairperson, she always listened to what Members said. In the discussions around the capped amount, Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) had expressed huge sentiment in letting the Committee understand why the service providers charged the amounts that they did. This was the position that the DA had taken, and it was well captured in the minutes, and was something that the DHET and NSFAS would consider. The insinuation that the Committee put politics first, was something that she could not understand. She really wanted to protect all Members across political affiliations from Mr Zondo’s insinuations.

Mr Letsie said that he found it problematic that Mr Zondo had suggested an open-ended budget for student accommodation. If it stated that student accommodation was worth R90 000 a year, that was R9 000 monthly for rent. Did it mean that one must not question this figure? At the University of Cape Town, there was accommodation for R9 000 per month. The accommodation between the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape cost R2 800 per month. In the City of Cape Town, some accommodation also costs R4 500. The suggestion that this should not be questioned, was confusing. There was an assumption that only NSFAS students who had been paid by government were having these issues. What about the self-funded students? It was problematic that this sector was not being regulated. The social responsibility associated with this had been discussed, with which he agreed.

He fully believed that there was collusion by private providers to milk the state and no one must ask questions, which could not be right. The Committee had stated in the meeting with NSFAS that it should approach the Competition Commission immediately because some of the student accommodation was unnecessarily expensive for anybody. He gave an example of a two-bedroom apartment in Braamfontein, which consisted of two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room for R8 000- R9 000, but the student accommodation was far smaller, with two students sharing, paying R6 000 each. It could not be expected of this Committee to keep quiet and go on with business as usual. It had been agreed with NSFAS that it could not go on with a sector like student accommodation not being regulated. There was a problem, and NSFAS should approach the Competition Commission immediately, and there must be a speedy resolution. The Competition Commission must intervene and help the students.

The Committee had always said that it would support students if it felt that their issues were not taken to heart or taken seriously by institutions. Students were well within their right to protest in these circumstances. The Committee would encourage the students to protest peacefully, not resort to foul play like the university management sometimes did. There must be peaceful protests. If the protests turned out violent, the genuine issues became compromised by that violence. He could not support violent protests, the same way he could not support the militarisation of institutions. He did not support the hardline approach taken by university management. It was important to state that a violent protest would not be supported. If this was not done, some criminal elements would come in and join the protest without actually supporting the cause. Some of them might have been recruited and paid to do so. He did not want a situation where the students' genuine efforts and issues were hijacked.

He was extremely worried when a university employee in management was accused of something and the university did not act as swiftly and quickly as when they were suspending students for protests. There were sexual harassment cases, and these people also worked with student accommodation providers for money here and there. It sometimes took three days to submit a suspension letter and surrender all university property. There should be a serious discussion with the DHET and stakeholders on these matters. The institutions could not be soft on each other. This had been happening at a number of institutions, so there had to be a discussion around this. There were people in management being accused of things, but the institutions were not doing anything, but if students did something, they were suspended. There could not be this kind of bias in terms of how students were treated at institutions.

When oversight was done in KwaZulu-Natal, there was an opportunity to ask the unions not to protest when the registration period started. There were generally wage negotiations around April-May, and the unions were asked not to strike at that time. The registration period was one of the most important calendar dates for institutions. This was something to be considered, but one would not want to make it seem as if the issues were not genuine. Some issues were genuine. He explained that some staff members had been employed on a part-time basis for ten years. The sector must be protected, and there must be concessions from all stakeholders.

He said he was also interested in the engagements over the 2023 bursary guidelines. NSFAS indicated on 23 November 2022 that it had started engagements with stakeholders and would continue engagements the following day. He asked how many meetings there had been and what concerns had been raised. He believed the capped amount was right, because student accommodation should range from R28 000 to R90 000. This was a student accommodation battle.

Dr W Boshoff (FF+) said that he was not a market fundamentalist, but sometimes it was quite useful to look at the analysis of market fundamentalism because it provided some value and explained the whole idea of distortion of the market by injecting a huge amount from the state's side. It was quite credible to say that service providers who received their money from the state through NSFAS raised their prices and then relied on students to protest. If someone was qualified for NSFAS support, they clearly did not have money to pay the huge amounts for accommodation. The prices were then raised unfairly and exaggerated, and students had to protest and the service providers got what they wanted. It was clearly not the solution to say that whatever the market price for accommodation was should be paid by NSFAS, because the prices would be inflated indefinitely. It was necessary to have a cap and to stick to that capped amount. Service providers should learn that they would not be working with them if they could not deliver within that capped amount. There was already a distorted market through the injection of NSFAS, and if people insisted on increasing the capped amount, the market would be distorted even more.

Referring to the protests, he said that in the academic tradition from which he came, protests like this would not happen. It was something that students would typically vote for. It was unbelievable how sacred academic institutions were, although he did not want to use the word “sacred,” because it gave a kind of religious air to it. He said that protests were fine -- they must just not resort to violence. He thought it was a cultural difference that he found hard to bridge, but that was his own perception even if it did not have a meaning for anyone else.

Mr Mogale said that he took exception to what Dr Boshoff had said. Dr Boshoff could not say that this was a cultural difference. Was he saying that protests were a black people thing, and that white people did not protest? White people protested in Senekal and destroyed property. He asked what Dr Boshoff was trying to say.

The Chairperson said that she did not know whether Mr Mogale was raising a point of order, but Dr Boshoff should explain what he had been trying to say. This would ensure that Members were not being offended on the platform. She also took exception to Mr Zondo’s insinuations.

Dr Boshoff said that it was not a racial thing. He was merely talking about the academic culture, which had nothing to do with race. He was referring to how the academic protests were being approached. One could not perceive that higher education could be free altogether indefinitely. He understood that while an individual was studying, they may not be able to pay. The individuals might also come from a background with no parents, family or sponsorship from a bank or study loans. Once a student is registered with NSFAS, the student should be placed on the pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) database of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and when the student starts earning, they should at least pay back a portion of the loan which had been granted. This would replenish the funds which would be available to be loaned to future students. There were always going to be more students. He said that Mr Mogale had misunderstood what he was saying. There were different academic cultures all around the world. He was referring to 30 years ago when he was studying, when running in the streets and becoming violent was not the done thing. This was a kind of academic culture, and had nothing to do with race.

Mr Zondo said that he had not meant to attack any Members of the Committee, and withdrew his earlier statement. It had just been a caution that in some universities or institutions, management just did what it liked because they were connected. This did not mean that there were instances where the Committee did something favouring the institutions or members that were now part of management. He had been using a language that was not his home language, and he was trying to say that there must be a mediating factor in resolving these issues. These were issues that had been raised in many instances. He was not saying that when it was R70 000-R80 000 per annum, NSFAS should pay for the student accommodation. The Committee should try to introduce some regulations that would regulate the approval of the student residences and the capped amount. He e understood what Mr Letsie was saying about a small room for two students paying R6 000 each, and the owner of the residence ending up with R12 000 for that room. Some regulation would help with this.

He said he had knowledge that a residence got approval from the institutions where there was NSFAS funding. If there was approval for such residences, they surely should be in an acceptable condition. There should be some condition that if a residence is a particular size, the price should not exceed a particular amount. The pricing had to be kept under control. There had to be some mediation to produce solutions and ensure they did not collude with management. It had been alleged that there was collusion in prices and money being paid to management staff to ensure the approval of residences. He just wanted to put this into context and withdraw any statement out of line. Everyone should work together to ensure that no one was misusing the system, and that institutions were not abusing students.

The Chairperson said the Committee wanted to have a proper account from SAUS in writing before the end of the day on the issues. This would help it raise these concerns on behalf of the students with management and with the DHET, and assist in bridging the gaps better. The Committee was an oversight structure, and when it saw student protests, there were concerns.

She informed Mr Mogale that the Committee was surprised to see Capricorn TVET College -- in particular, the Seshogo campus -- protesting and the extent thereof. The spreadsheet by SATVETSA did not necessarily unpack what the causes of the protest were, but it did explain that teaching and learning had continued with poor attendance. What were the reasons for the protest? There was a lot that the media had been saying, but it would be better for the Committee to have the actual reasons to hold the DHET to account and ensure that interventions were being implemented.

She was shocked that there were protests at Capricorn, as well as at Thekwini TVET College. The Committee sensed some disjuncture between the stakeholders, and recommendations were made to meet with the stakeholders to attempt to successfully start the 2023 academic year. She did not see any information on Umfolozi TVET College, but was sure that protests were happening. There had been some unrest at the beginning of the year at the Esikhawini campus of the Umfolozi TVET College. She asked what the current state of the protests was from a student perspective. The Committee must be able to cross-reference that information with the DHET. She said it was concerning that there was a disjuncture between what the Committee had witnessed and what happened later on. In certain instances, it did not make sense, raising concern.

Mr Zondo confirmed heavy strikes at the Esikhawini campus in February.

The Chairperson said she just wanted to confirm that it was the Esikhawini campus. The Committee had done oversight at the Umfolozi TVET College and had seen a disjuncture between the stakeholders. There were concerns raised around water provision, and the Committee felt that it was important that there was representation from the provincial legislature and local government. This was an attempt to bridge the gap between services that were not necessarily managed by the DHET, but had a direct consequence on the PSET sector. In some cases, the Committee was surprised, or did not expect these protests. There were instances where the Committee had recommended that stakeholders work together and that there must be intervention from the local council or provincial government to overcome some of these challenges and try to ensure a more successful start to the 2023 academic year.

The things that Members were saying about the relationship between students and management went back to a conversation that the Committee had last year about institutional autonomy and its relationship to cooperative governance. It seemed as if the university management did not appreciate the voice of the students, workers, Committee, government and communities. This was a public institution; therefore, no matter how others may argue, not enough money came from government. The Committee could not be told that they had not given their one cent, when in fact, it had. They remained public institutions, and should adhere to cooperative governance.

She said there had been a meeting towards the end of 2021 with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) about the responsibility for security. The Committee had raised concerns about the protest protocols. There was a major discussion around putting up systems, policies and protocols across the spectrum that would provide guidance on how to interact with student protests, or protests in general on campuses. There had to be a protest policy. This would allow students to understand what rules needed to be followed. This had to be clear, because police and bouncers were being brought in. It was a wishy-washy type of thing. It was not just about whether the vice-chancellor had the skills necessary to negotiate conflict, to mediate and resolve those conflicts. It had to be something that was systematised. A system needed to be put in place. The DHET must try to introduce some sort of protocol that could be followed across the spectrum. She asked why bouncers and private security, who had no appreciation of the institutional culture, were being brought in. There had been reports on various campuses that these people did not even have badges. As a citizen of this country, everyone has a right to ask for the name of such a person, or even their badge. At all times, an individual must be able to see the badge of a police officer. If something went wrong, an individual would be able to say that a police officer had mishandled them, or that due process was not followed. There must be a protocol that had to be followed nationally by the police service and ordinary security on campus. It was the Committee’s view that private security should not be on campus unless there was some immense state of emergency which the institution's internal security could not manage. Management brought in security support way too early, before even going through the negotiation or mediation process. This did not help the system.

She said there would be a meeting with DHET, and hoped that USAf would avail themselves. The Committee had sent invitations to the sector promptly because it was worried and wanted to give the Department some space and time to do its work. Matters had not been resolved although the Committee had been told that there would be a much better start to the 2023 academic year than what had happened in the past. There had been a regression between the start of the last academic year and this academic year. NSFAS indicated two weeks ago that it was trying to alleviate the pressures the cap had put on the system. She was glad that SAUS had been very resolute in its position by saying it supported the cap.

She said there should not be challenges with universities, as they were part of government and were within the system. Universities were public institutions. There should not be any challenges with universities regarding the R45 000 cap for student accommodation. SAUS had been resolute in its position, and NSFAS had indicated that it had consulted with USAf on the capped amount last year. There was a challenge with private accommodation service providers, because they were bigger. NSFAS had indicated that it had been consulting with a particular structure representing the private sector. There had to be more engagement. NSFAS had said it was looking at engaging with service providers and encouraging them to adhere to the R45 000 cap and to come on board and use the NSFAS accommodation portal. These providers should indicate their interest in providing support for student accommodation, particularly those that were NSFAS-funded.

She appreciated what Mr Letsie had said about management. Many cases would be brought to this Committee involving senior managers, universities, deputy vice-chancellors, vice-chancellors and various staff, but the system was never that rapid in dealing with these cases. People went through disciplinary hearings, which took forever because there was insufficient evidence. A lot happened before consequence management could be implemented. However, the institutions were very fast in dealing with students that protested. This was a concern, because it does not inspire a willingness to work with stakeholders and find solutions.

She asked SAUS to provide more information, because it was important to understand the student narrative of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the reasons for the protest. She asked for more information on the students that had been arrested. She wanted to know the position at the University of Witwatersrand, and what the issues were with the suspended students at the University of Pretoria. Just because an institution was no longer experiencing protests, it did not mean that the issues at the institution had been resolved. This was something to be wary of. Institutions should not be overlooked because there are no longer student protests. She gave an example of the SATVETSA presentation, where a column indicated whether or not an intervention had resulted in a resolution of the issue or not. This was something that should be acknowledged and appreciated.

There were student accommodation issues at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape. Students were sleeping in halls. There were student formations that were attempting to help these students. It was important to know whether sustainable interventions had been put in place. There was a similar situation at Sol Plaatje University. Some protests had been resolved, and teaching and learning had commenced successfully. One should be able to monitor the numbers. For instance, no students could register and at some point over 500 students had not registered, but now all students were registered.

There was an inability to close issues in this sector. The issues then linger and protests recur. There were many cases with NSFAS where the issues of students could not be resolved. As a result, students were left with debt. Students now apply for NSFAS support, but have debts from the previous year and could not register. Sometimes appeals were not closed. Many issues in this sector were not resolved. It was as if it was just moving on to the next issue as soon as one issue had died down. These matters caught up with the sector or the student, which was unfortunate. There have been some challenges at the University of Zululand, Nelson Mandela University and the University of Johannesburg. This was what she had noticed, but there might be more universities.

She again expressed the hope that SAUS could provide their information to the Committee before the end of the day. She asked for clarity around the figure of students that were affected by the progression rule. How many campuses were part of King Sabata Dalindyebo TVET College? There were two campuses with no teaching and learning -two out of how many? She said it was important to have the information that the students had shared and the TVET programme so that it could be presented to the DHET.

She appreciated the concerns students shared with the Committee, and the Committee had expressed its concerns on these ongoing issues. It had requested the report of the ministerial task team on student funding. It hoped that this report would provide recommendations for sustainable funding for the PSET sector to ensure access to teaching and learning, particularly for the working and middle classes, through free education. The Committee had been waiting on the ministerial task team for the student funding report scheduled for last year. The report had not gone to Cabinet yet because there had to be further engagement with stakeholders. The report was supposed to have been presented to the Committee in the first term, but had since moved to the second term because it had not gone to Cabinet yet.

Access to learning and teaching was a great concern for this Committee. She hoped the report would recommend increasing the household cap of R350 000 to R450 000-R600 000. SAUS had also demanded over the years that the cap should be R600 000 per household, and not R350 000. There was also the element of infrastructure. There had to be enough lecture halls and enough workshops in TVET colleges. There was clearly a need for greater resources.

She said that student funding was one element, but funding the sector was a whole different conversation. Funding the sector meant that once a student had secured funding, they must be able to have a bed, enter workshops that had enough capacity and be taught by lecturers, and there must be sufficient lectures. There had to be a sustainable bonding for the sector. She hoped that the ministerial task team's report on student funding would address these issues.

The Committee had been engaging with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure on how many buildings could be utilised that were close to institutions that could help to alleviate the pressure.

The Chairperson said the Committee was aware of the overarching sectoral issues, but there were also campus-based issues that spoke to NSFAS being able to run its administration successfully. NSFAS had to be able to administer itself efficiently. Appeals should be handled efficiently and allocations must be done efficiently. The management of institutions should send the registration data on time so that allowances could be sent on time. The Department of Basic Education should also be able to release the results on time. It spoke to better coordination, administration and management within the entire education system. Issues such as the misinterpretation of guidelines should not even be an issue. This was something that should be addressed. The Committee hoped that recommendations would be given to address the bigger sectoral issues, such as policies and budgets.


Dr Marcia Socikwa, Deputy Director-General (DDG): University Education, DHET, said a detailed submission would be given to the Committee in the meeting the following day. The DHET had heard the different views of the students and the Committee, and appreciated the invitation to this meeting.

Mr Sonti, DHET, said that the DHET had been working closely with SATVETSA and the SRCs to try and resolve some of the issues. There were no longer protests at the Esikhawini campus. The water matter had been resolved. The municipality was the one that was experiencing water shortages. There were now extra water tankers that had been purchased. The municipality had even gone as far as assisting with boreholes to resolve the issue. The management of the Umfolozi TVET College was busy meeting with the SRC. There were also issues with outstanding allowances. The DHET would report back on these matters to the Committee.

Mr Daweti said that he appreciated the work that the Committee was doing, because it had called SAUS to hear what was happening. It meant a lot, because the Committee was trying to resolve the issues faced by the PSET sector. He referred to the consultations with USAf on the student accommodation capped amount. SAUS wanted to understand the variations in costs at the institutions, and he referred to the examples made by Mr Letsie on the variations in the City of Cape Town. There were frustrations on how these amounts were settled on. The response had been that it was an issue of property. SAUS was not interested in the cost of a property, but wanted to understand at a basic level what determined the cost for students.

He agreed with the Committee that officials were abusing their powers, which had to be condemned in the strongest terms. These officials did not want to be held accountable. He asked for the support of this Committee and the DHET for assistance on these matters. Students were not just sleeping and then waking up and raising these issues. These issues had been there and been raised before.

He said that registration committees were different, and institutions tended not to take them seriously. As soon as it was January, the institutions wanted to be arrogant and implement things that would disadvantage students. There should be a discussion in the House on the struggles of other countries, because they were intertwined with the struggles of students. Some concerns were genuine, and there ought to be a discussion. If an issue is raised, support should be provided to assist. The strikes in January had created unnecessary chaos.

He said that the number of students affected by the progression rule was just a rough number. The SRC had given SAUS an estimate, and this number was being finalised.

The Chairperson thanked SAUS, and said that she hoped it would be able to strengthen the documents that the Committee expected to receive by the end of the day.

Mr Mgwali thanked the Committee for inviting the SRC to the meeting. He said that attempts were being made to resolve the issues on the campuses. The principal of the Mandeni campus had reached out to the SRC members to resolve the issues resulting in the strikes. The SRC was working closely with the regional offices and the branches to try and resolve all these issues.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson said that all the work being done at the national level was good, but her concern was the translation of the work to the realities on the ground. Work was being done by this Committee, the DHET, other departments and various stakeholders such as the South African Public Colleges Organisation (SAPCO), students and NSFAS. Cases were coming in from students involving NSFAS, and it was frustrating. Students go to NSFAS with questions and think that they understand. NSFAS had to strengthen their communication with citizens to the point where ordinary citizens that were not students understood the work that NSFAS was doing. This spoke to all the meetings and recommendations that had been made and compared them to the experiences of the students on the ground. All this work that was being done, the coordination with engagements and mini-meetings, should translate to the lived reality on the ground. Something had to give.

She said a Committee Member had always emphasised that it was unfortunate that the Members were not the people in the NSFAS offices who had to process the communication that a student was missing supporting documents. The Members were not the individuals in the registration offices of the institutions that were not sending the data to NSFAS. So how did they translate the urgency to the people in those offices? This was where principles and values must come forth. This was where officials and public service administrators must contribute to this work, so young people in this country could have access to institutions and ensure that they had the requisite skills and knowledge to participate actively in the economy. This would ensure that livelihoods became better and help contribute to the self-liberation of the people of this country. This was the impact of the conversations and recommendations that the Committee was currently having.

She thanked SAVETSA and SAUS, and said the Committee looked forward to working with them.

She said there would be a briefing the following day with the DHET, USAf and SAPCO as a continuation of this meeting. She hoped that the DHET would ensure that the various stakeholders were present to share the work they had been doing with the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

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