South African President Jacob Zuma is set to meet university management and student leaders on Friday 23 October to discuss the countrywide stalemate over fee increases.
The meeting will be held with university vice-chancellors, chairpersons of councils and student leaders at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, with a view to finding a solution to the impasse.
This will be Zuma’s second meeting with university management this month. His consultation with vice-chancellors and council chairs on 6 October resolved to set up a task team to explore solutions to short-term student funding challenges.
Zuma said the government fully understands the pressure and difficulties confronting students from poor and working class households.
“It is important that we work together to find solutions,” he said. “Nobody disagrees with the message that students from poor households are facing financial difficulties and possible exclusion.
“Even in the January 8 statement of the governing party this year, we stated that the escalating cost of university education had become another source of exclusion for the poor and vulnerable South African child. All parties should allow space for this matter to be discussed in a manner that will enable us to find a solution.”
In a statement released today, the South African government reiterated its commitment to funding for both basic and higher education, and to overcoming funding shortfalls.
“Since 1994 government has prioritised education,” the statement reads. “This has translated into substantial funding for both basic and higher education. But given the legacy of the past there is a funding shortfall in higher education.
“The current student protests over higher fees which began at Wits University and have since migrated to other campuses are of serious concern to government. The issues raised by the students are legitimate and government is sympathetic to their cause and are in line with our own priorities of ensuring quality and affordable education.
“Government is committed to working with student leadership, university management and unions to find a solution to the current impasse and is working towards a long term solution to student funding in South Africa.”