EDITORIAL | First it was ‘pay back the money’, now ‘there is no money’

The student tuition situation is a tinder box and the police’s bull in a china shop tactics will only make it worse

10 March 2021 - 20:33

Yesterday’s deadly shooting during a Wits University student protest was a disaster waiting to happen. But an even greater disaster is our government’s lack of interest in pre-empting or preventing it. The spark that lit the fire came on Monday, when higher education minister Blade Nzimande, in an “update on funding decisions for prospective 2021 students”, confirmed financially stricken students’ worst fears. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) “has not been able to confirm eligibility for first-time entering students wishing to study in public universities in 2021”, he said. Basically, there is no money to fund new students’ tuition.

Nzimande rattled off a list of reasons for this precarious situation; nothing that South Africans weren’t aware of: Covid-19, budget cuts across government departments and a deteriorating economy. He made some sympathetic noises (“I am aware that this is causing great anxiety for prospective students and their families”). Two days later, Nzimande blamed it on all former president Jacob Zuma, who announced free tuition for all poor students in December 2017, as the ANC’s national elective conference started. It’s not an entirely inaccurate statement but a political blame game is pointless, especially when real suffering is playing out in the streets. ..

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