Gcaleka hopeful student protests will end soon after meeting with Nzimande

However, with the national shutdown in place across the country, acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka said their priority, for now, was getting students back in class.

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande addresses members of the media in Pretoria on 8 March 2021 on funding discussions for prospective students for the 2021 academic year. Picture: GCIS

JOHANNESBURG - Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka on Wednesday said following a meeting with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, she was hopeful student protests would end soon.

Gcaleka met with Nzimande on Tuesday night to discuss possible solutions to the crisis in the sector.

However, with the national shutdown in place across the country, Gcaleka said their priority, for now, was getting students back in class.

“The issues of clearing historic debt are linked to issues of the missing middle and ensuring we do not have these kinds of protest is really a medium to long-term goal that needs to be achieved urgently. What is needed now is to ensure students get back to the classroom.”

Public Protector's spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said: “He [Nzimande] also indicated that he is working on introducing a new funding model for NSFAS. It was agreed upon other things that they would share the document for the new funding for NSFAS and there would be regular meetings to track the problems plaguing the higher education sector as well.”

The meeting comes as students have embarked on a national shutdown demanding the scrapping of historic debt among other things.

The Office of the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) have quizzed Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande about why his department hasn't implemented a 2016 report on transformation at institutions of higher learning, which they believe could have prevented student protests.

The report came after demonstrations including #FeesMustFal and #OutsourcingMustFall.

It recommended that the department use its power to force institutions to implement policies that would bring about change to avoid annual protests.

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