Academic activities at the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) in the Eastern Cape have been suspended due to ongoing student protests.

WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo confirmed disruptions to institutional operations and damage to property.

Tukwayo says issues raised by the students include financial and academic exclusion, NSFAS and transport allowances, as well as advanced diploma student accommodation challenges.

The students on three campuses, Mthatha, Butterworth and Buffalo City have been protesting since last Friday.

Students at TVET college in Mpumalanga protest

Students at the Ehlanzeni TVET College in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, have embarked on a protest yesterday.

The students, who have blockaded the main entrance to the college, are demanding outstanding examination results, accommodation and an end to financial exclusion.

They last attended lectures two weeks ago.

Ehlanzeni Mbombela campus Students’ Representative Council (SRC) deputy president Russel Ngwenya says, “The issue of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has affected many children in such a way that many students are forced to leave the campus and go home because they don’t have money to travel and pay their rents.”

“Also the issue of pending results has affected them a lot. Some didn’t have a chance to register because of those results and the issue of residence, some students are unable to be accommodated in the residences,” explains Ngwenya.

The country has experienced protests at many institutions of higher learning. Students have been taking to the streets demanding that those owing fees should not be excluded from registration.

Issues with NSFAS have been under the spotlight of recent.

Accusations of mismanagement at NSFAS:

Nzimande on NSFAS funding

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says more than 60% of the students who benefited from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are also beneficiaries of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). The minister says this is a massive achievement.

Nzimande breifed the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education of the National Assembly recently,  on some of the ongoing financial support to students at various tertiary institutions.

“It’s that 67% of the new applicants, honourable chair, are SASSA beneficiaries. You see what this means is that the child grant is working in such that kids that ordinarily would not have reached this stage, are able now to apply and many of them would be able to get to a university or college. It’s a huge achievement by the government; the impact of the other grant that we have which is the child grant,” says Nzimande.

Poor student funding scheme’

Nzimande had defended NSFAS amid some criticism of the poor student funding scheme. This comes amid student protests across the country over fees exclusions.

Historical debt

Nzimande met with Vice-Chancellors from universities across the country to map a way forward as student protests continue.

Students from some tertiary institutions have been protesting calling for historical debt to be cancelled. They want all students to be allowed to register for the 2021 academic year.

Discussion on student protests against financial exclusion: