In a repeat of scenes from 2016, Wits University students took to the streets on 8 March to protest after some students had been unable to register for the 2021 academic year due to historical debt.
Two days later, Mthokozisi Ntumba was shot dead, allegedly by police, as he passed the student protests in Braamfontein. Students had been protesting over concerns that thousands would be excluded from the academic year due to financial difficulties.
Following Ntumba’s death, the Wits protests gained momentum, with the South African Union of Students threatening to shut down the country’s 26 universities on 15 March.
Under pressure, Cabinet approved additional funding for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), saying it would now fork out R42 million this year.
The money will go to mostly first-time qualifying students to enrol for higher education.
During a media briefing, higher education minister Blade Nzimande said some of the demands to the government and universities relate to the debt of students who may not be funded by NSFAS.
Is the dream of free education a possibility? We asked three analysts to give us their views on where the government had gone wrong and whether there were any solutions to the current crisis.
You can read their submissions below.
Student protests: Austerity, higher education and a spectacular failure of imagination [for subscribers]
Relying on NSFAS is not sustainable and the situation, where thousands of students are turned away while others are drowning in debt, is untenable, writes Salim Vally.
Student protests: The ANC revolution is eating its children [for subscribers]
Amid the infighting between ANC factions, the poor lose out as social assistance continues to shrink; unemployment, poverty and inequality increase; and “free” education remains an unattainable dream, writes Sean Gossel.
The puzzle of student protests: An unresolved battle [for subscribers]
An opportunity to find a lasting solution to student demands was missed during the protests that led to universities’ nationwide shutdown in 2015, writes Sethulego Matebesi.