Dr Bandile Masuku, Chairperson of the Tshwane University of Technology Council, Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, as well as the TUT community are unwavering in their empathy and support of the plight of our students who face extreme difficulties to pay for higher education.
"As a people’s university we are sensitive to the needs of students, with many of our students hailing from disadvantaged communities and are dependent on NSFAS funding, bursaries and loans to finance their studies.
"Furthermore, we must remember that as universities, our existence depends on our students. We are here to serve them, the future of our country," says Prof van Staden.
He, however, implored students to exercise discipline and restraint in their actions. "This issue is about more than just student fees, it is about the transformation in higher education. But, students should observe the fine line between protest action and transgressing the rule of law. Through disciplined action aimed at bringing about change, they will retain the public sympathy and contribute towards change in higher education," said Prof van Staden.
Prof van Staden added that the country-wide protest action that took place certainly grabbed the attention of all South Africans and Government. "Owing to technology, it also received the attention and support of many other countries and students."
He also alluded to the new generation of students entering higher education. "Today’s prospective students are digital natives. Their dreams and aspirations are fed by connectivity to technology and information. They think more critically about their world and ask the difficult questions that challenge the status quo and often also people in positions of power and authority.
The need for financial support is growing just as fast as the aspirations of the youth, which is one of the core drivers of the current #FeesMustFall Campaign. Funding for higher education has been a challenge for many years and has resulted in annual protest action at TUT, as well as many other institutions country-wide.
He added that, over years, TUT has been fortunate for the financial support received from NSFAS and Government to aid students in achieving their career goals. The University is one of the higher education institutions in the country that receives the largest portion of funding from NSFAS, however, there is still an annual shortfall to assist all the students who apply for financial help. This has prompted the University to look at its own operations and budget to make even more money available to help deserving students.
The development and empowerment of our youth is a collective South African effort, hence, the University launched a dedicated Bursary and Scholarship Fund last year to assist needy students. This Fund is a long-term project and provides an opportunity for Council members, management, staff, Alumni, members of the TUT Convocation and donors to become part of the solution to this national problem.
The continuation of the academic project is currently the most critical issue for the majority of South African students. With the final exams looming, revision and preparation for these exams is critical for their success. The ongoing talks between TUT management and the Central SRC, are therefore vitally important to facilitate discussions of critical issues and arriving at solutions that will be acceptable to the student community, while also taking into account the operational needs of the University.
"The country and higher education cannot afford the ongoing, annual student protest action that see the same issues being raised time and again. We need to find a long-lasting solution,’ he said.
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