#FeesMustFall: NSFAS weighs in on student protests

NSFAS says the inability of students to pay back their loans is partly due to internal inefficiencies.

Fort Hare University students march through the campus, recruiting students as they toyi-toyi against a hike in fees and what they say is a corrupt administration. Picture: Thomas Holders/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As the 'Fees Must Fall' campaign extends to more universities in different parts of the country, the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says the inability of students to pay back their loans is partly due to internal inefficiencies but also the result of South Africa's economic outlook.

The NSFAS scheme is owed billions of rand by graduates across the country, but it admits that many of these students are also unemployed.

The Department of Higher Education has been criticised by what's perceived as its inability to collect its loans.

Today, protests against fee hikes in 2016 continue at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Wits, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Fort Hare and Stellenbosch University.

Executive officer at NSFAS Msulwa Daca says all means of retrieving the loans must be explored.

"Part of it is our own internal inefficiencies that we are working on. It's also affected by the general economic environment of the country. We are focusing on making sure that we call debtors, we chase them, we trace them and we take the legal steps necessary."

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Meanwhile, Management at the University of Fort Hare is in a closed-door meeting with the SRC to discuss concerns over proposed fee increases.

SRC representative Sithenkosi Lungisa has just walked into a meeting with management.

"We expect them to be arrogant but we are going there on a clear heart and not wearing blinkers, to say let's negotiate. How then do we curb this issue of fees, because it's a form of exclusion."

Lungisa says the SRC would like to see management call an urgent council meeting by Friday, to scrap fee increases next year.

Demonstrators are waiting outside the administration building for feedback from the SRC.

Earlier today, students vowed to make the campus ungovernable if management did not meet with the SRC today.

Students were calling on every student to unite and shut down the institution until management agreed to discuss next year's fee increases.

Demonstrators moved from residence to residence, to mobilise all students to take part in today's mass demonstration.

Lungisa says the fees are simply unaffordable.

"They've increased registration fees, and to secure a residence for first year students was R1,000... And now they've increased it to R2,500."

#FeesMustFall Fort Hare University students dance a sing through the campus to the admin offices. @ThomHolder pic.twitter.com/g2twKaHunj

#FeesMustFall Fort Hare University students march through the campus. @ThomHolder pic.twitter.com/DWfahtxOBq