Blade-Nzimande_690x450_crop_80 “I don’t want to take problems that are not mine. Fees are decided by individual institutions legally, not by the ministry,” he told reporters in Joburg. Nzimande said given the sensitivity of the #FeesMustFall movement and the necessity of a common framework, government’s job is to provide consultation. “But fees are still going to be decided by individual institutions guided by a framework that is agreeable out of this process,” he said. Nzimande urged student formations to make a submission to the presidential commission so that they could “influence it”. “We think it’s not correct to make a demand and then when a platform is there, you pull out.” He said the decision on a fee increase would be made in the next two weeks. Free education “In a week or two, we should have arrived at a common understanding.” He denied that there was no free education, saying that some previously black universities were mostly filled with those on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). “It’s incorrect to say that there is no free higher education. There is free higher education. It’s just that it has not reached everybody. We are on the same side as the students. The issue is that of modality.” The South African Union of Students (SAUS), which claims to be the largest federation of student governance representation, says it has lost patience with the government and will accept nothing but a 0% fee increase at all universities in 2017. While government deliberates over next year’s university fees, student leaders have threatened to shut down universities across the country should the government implement a fee increase. Nzimande received a report from the Council on Higher Education on recommendations for 2017 fee adjustments on Thursday, and decided that further consultation was required. He had been expected to make an announcement on Friday, but the briefing was cancelled. Furthermore, Nzimande said universities have raised concern over possible retrenchments should there be no fee increase for 2017, “The universities have the issue of dealing with the implications of whatever action we take in relation to this matter. That was why we were in discussion and sharing the report. The report itself does point out the consequences of the fee increase across the board. We are looking at all these things,” he said. Nzimande said on Monday that the ministry’s conundrum was that it had to take into account “the feeling of students, but at the same time, we must also look at the viability of our institutions”. He said he was concerned that universities would start retrenching or close down certain programmes. “Some of our institutions are at a very precarious position, so we have to take into account all of that.” 0% increase He said he was consulting with his colleagues in Cabinet so that “we don’t inflict damage”. Pressure is mounting on Nzimande’s department, as student leaders planned to begin consultations and mass meetings on Monday to pave a way forward on the issue of fees. Nzimande had been expected to make an announcement on Friday on the Council on Higher Education report, but the briefing was cancelled. - SOURCE: News24Wire via DestinyConnect Image: GalloImages