Deputy higher education minister fields complaints about tertiary institutions

05 August 2020 - 12:12 By Zipo-zenkosi Ncokazi
Deputy higher education minister Buti Manamela speaks to students at Port Elizabeth TVET College.
Deputy higher education minister Buti Manamela speaks to students at Port Elizabeth TVET College.

Deputy higher education and training minister Buti Manamela was bombarded with questions and complaints from staff and students on his visit to tertiary institutions in Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday.

Manamela visited Port Elizabeth TVET College and Nelson Mandela University to monitor safety protocols in line with the phased reopening of institutions of higher learning.

Most of the complaints related to the shortage of resources, such as laptops, and the training of student leaders on the response strategies to Covid-19.

While meeting with Manamela, lecturers were given the chance to air their grievances and among the issues raised was the shortage of resources such as laptops and data, and the increased workload due to some staff being at home.

Manamela’s first stop was the TVET college, where SRC president Siphosihle Mthi said a serious investment was urgently needed to ensure that their infrastructure — across all three campuses — was in a condition to deliver teaching and learning in a conducive environment.

“Some of the other campuses’ infrastructure is old and needs a revamp, we have workshops that are not fully capacitated and do not afford the students the opportunity to do their practical work and be able to invent something,” Mthi said.

He said there was a shortage of teaching staff, which had worsened as there were lecturers who had underlying comorbidities, forcing them to stay at home.

“The hiring of staff should be fast-tracked so students have time to prepare and are given the opportunity to progress without any hiccups.”

Mthi touched on NSFAS funding, saying students had to wait for months, or the entire year, to get their allowances.

“No amount of communication seems to assist the students and the problem persists.

“Students need to secure the financial support they need to ensure they perform well and have funds to carry them through.

“They have to sell their souls to the devil, which is not an ideal situation and puts their lives, health and mental state in an non-conducive state,” Mthi said.

The second stop was the NMU north campus where vice-chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa presented their implementation of Covid-19 plans, since staff and students started returning to campus in May.

Manamela said he was quite content with the lengths colleges and universities had gone to to make sure the proper safety and protective measures were in place.

He said the ministry had instructed NSFAS to continue to pay students their allowances as well as the payment of allowances for internships and learnerships.

“We know that there are still colleges faced with challenges and some students who have not been paid their allowances, and that is why we included NSFAS representatives on this visit to directly deal with those challenges.”

Manamela said the question of laptops and data was the biggest challenge they faced, but the procurement process was under way and the distribution would be completed soon.

He said there was a criteria for funding, and if students did not comply and meet that criteria, they would not be funded.

“What we have seen is students providing contradictory information, where they say parents are deceased or earn below the threshold, so in those situations they won’t be funded.

 “We believe that for us to save the academic year, the people who need to be resourced are lecturers,” Manamela said.