The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) stands in solidarity with protesting students at Walter Sisulu University (WSU). The protest is in its fifth day, having started on
24 February 2022 against financial exclusions.

Students who did not qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) because of exclusionary criteria that were introduced, including the discontinuation of funding for PGCE and other qualifications, are unable to register.

Even with the R32 billion additional funding to NSFAS this year, it is discouraging to hear that students are still faced with financial exclusions. However, like the Fee Must Fall generation resolved, and the generation of student activists before them, Free Education is the only tool that can alleviate financial exclusions and ensure every prospective student a general access to higher education and training.

Other issues include the shortage of accommodation in student residences. Even though the Budget Review shows that the Higher Education Infrastructure Grant will get an increase of 27% over the Medium-Term Budget Framework (MTEF), and by R2.6 billion to R4.6 billion in 2021/22 – 2022/23, the shortage of student accommodation is widespread and needs immediate attention.

The problem of universities and colleges lacking capacities to absorb all prospective students, is a problem whose only remedy is by building more higher education institutions with adequate infrastructure – infrastructure for tuition and student residence.

SAFTU supports the demands by students which include amongst others, that:

• Advanced Diploma, PGCE and Honours students must be allowed to register even if they don’t have money.

• The University must call NSFAS to fix the issues of students who are placed under n+2 rule by mistake.

• We are demanding that there be a immediate inspection of residences as there is a shortage in beds and students are in need of accommodation.

• We demand 10% procedure to be removed from the special cases guidelines for [students who owe the university to register], because students don’t have money.

• We demand extension of registration of students by at least two weeks as there are lot of students who are still outside the system.

SAFTU is worried that no media outlet in the mainstream is picking up the story, despite the burning issues that are being raised by students, and the legitimate demands there from.

That there are other important developing stories journalists are pursuing is one thing, but this is also an important story concerning the future of our children. Besides, what can be more newsworthy than that, a future of this country is being flushed down the drain!

Every child excluded from pursuing higher education, in the context of the growing unemployment, has two choices: to become a criminal or try a small business using the R350 of Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRDG) as President Ramaphosa enthusiastically
condemned them.

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