Still struggling with the bid to ensure that fees are not increased in the coming academic session, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) suggests a cut in salaries of university heads and senior servants — including the president’s- to fund free education.
The SA student Union made this demand warning education department and the state government that more campus protests will still take place if it fails to fund fees and goes ahead to increase tuition fees in the next session.
The union made its call during a presentation to the commission of inquiry into higher education fees. The enquiry was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to look into the country’s free higher education and it had its first hearing on Wednesday chaired by Supreme Court of Appeal Judge Jonathan Heher
Added to its demands, SAUS called for business owners to be taxed and the salaries of state employees to be reduced to fund free higher education and that the union be given access to Zuma after Heher said the commission could only make recommendations to the president.
“Many students come from poor backgrounds. They cannot afford fees. We are calling for free education as well as for debt and registration fees to be scrapped,” SAUS president Avela Mjajubana said.
“They (business owners) must not play with us and give two students bursaries; then we are thinking they are (contributing) … they must be taxed,” said SAUS president Avela Mjajubana on Wednesday on the first day of the hearings.
Annual tuition and accommodation fees for a BCom undergraduate student on average are about R100000 at the University of Cape Town and about R90000 at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
Speaking further, Mjajubana said free education would reduce crime as more people would be educated with better chances of employment.
However, the deputy secretary-general of the student’s union, Fasiha Hassan said the union was concerned that it was unable to engage properly with the commission and had been told there would be a follow-up meeting. It claimed this was a delaying tactic and said it would not sit by and let it happen — “we will be taken seriously and if needs be, by force”.
“The fact of the matter is that our institutions of higher learning are in a volatile space. The need for free and quality education is an urgent one. We cannot go back to our students with nothing. And if that means that we do need to shut down, that we do need to again prove the power of students, we will do so,” Hassan said.
Hassan said they understood that there was “no such thing as a free lunch” but that the burden of paying university fees must not be borne by students only.
SAUS president Avela Mjajubana however warned the state to rethink tender procurement processes and reduce salaries for senior state employees, including the president and called for c free education for the missing middle and poor students. “Cut the wage bill of vice chancellors, parliamentarians and mayors’.
Mjajubana said this while reminding the commission that the union’s short-term goal was to ensure that higher education was free for the poor and “missing middle” — those whose parents worked but did not earn enough to pay tuition fees.