Thousands of students across the country have expressed grave concern that President Jacob Zuma has not yet released the fees commission report. The report, meant to give a directive on the possibility of free, quality education, was submitted to President Zuma on August 31 for further study. He received the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training on the promise to make them public. But almost three months after the report was released, Zuma says he still “studying” the report.
The commission was set up in January 2016 and was tasked with investigating the feasibility of free education in South Africa. UCT vice-chancellor, Dr. Max Price, on Tuesday, released a statement, wherein he urged the president to release the much-anticipated report. Price said the UCT was forced to delay decisions on fees due to the much-awaited report. He also disclosed that “The failure to release the report has prevented stakeholders, including students and university councils, from responding to the proposals on the sustainable funding of higher education in South Africa and, in particular, on ensuring access for all who can benefit from it.”
The University of Cape Town Student Representative Council (SRC) secretary-general, Sinawo Thambo, also told reporters that they are losing patience on the report. The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) had on Monday, demanded the immediate release of the report. General Secretary Zola Saphetha said the union has been waiting with bated breath for the release of the report in order to find out whether the government will be able to implement free education in the country. “Students are getting agitated and we have already seen sporadic violence in institutions like the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Free State.”
“We are aware that some universities have started engagements with relevant stakeholders in relation to fee increments for 2018. This further necessitates that the president releases the report with immediate effect,” Nehawu added. Multiple sources reported that students have been protesting at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of Free State (UFS) over the past weeks.
There are fears that the wobbliness in the higher education ministry may now be worsened by Zuma’s Cabinet reshuffle, which saw the removal of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Meanwhile, reporters gathered that the Stellenbosch University announced an 8% fee increase for the 2018 year but it was rejected by its SRC.