Record of Engagements with Fees Must Fall
02 & 13 October 2016
1. Introduction and Background
The university met the Fees Must Fall Movement on the 2nd and the 13th October 2016 to engage on the original issues contained in the petition submitted to management as well as on other additional issues ancillary to the petition.
These meetings were viewed as an opportunity for management to better understand the demands of the students and to also explain the response of management to the petition of the FMF.
Most importantly, the meetings were viewed as platform for engagement with a view to finding one another on areas of disagreement.
2. The Engagements
The deliberations were mainly cordial. positive and constructive, and consensus was reached on most points, particularly on the principle issue of getting the higher education funding crunch sorted once and for all, including the need for a commitment to provide education to especially the poor. Here-in below is a summary of the outcomes of the meetings.
a. Logistical Support
a) Resumption of Shuttle Services: the students requested that the shuttle services be resumed in order to allow them to convene a mass meeting on the 3rd October 2016. The management agreed in principle to support the request as part of enabling the mass meeting as an important decision making platform to end (or continue) the shutdown.
b) Public Address System: The students requested a public address system for the meeting, and the Student Governance and Development Department agreed to provide the equipment.
c) Communication: The students also requested management to assist through the university’s communication platform by communicating the availability of the shuttles as part of aiding the success of the student’s assembly.
b. Contingency Plans
a) Student Friendly Academic Catch Up Plan:
The meeting agreed that the development of the catch up plans and a revised university time-table will be informed by the following principles:
1. Collective commitment to finishing the 2016 academic year.
2. The determination of the catch up plan is contingent upon knowing when the academic programme will resume.
3. Faculties should make assessments and with the participation of students develop faculty catch up plans.
4. A consolidated university catch up plan and a revised timetable for the remainder of the academic year will be published after the finalisation of Faculty Catch Up Plans by the respective Faculties.
5. Assessments that were made during the shutdown will have no impact or bearing on the official academic progress of students.
6. The FMF will establish a task team that will monitor the participation of students in the development of catch up plans and will raise whatever concerns it has about the process with management for intervention.
b) Implications for International Students: The students wanted to know the implications of the shut-down to international students. Management state that the sector is collectively engaging home affairs to extend the visas for the currently registered international students.
c) Extension of leases for students staying in Off-Campus Residences: Management committed through Student Housing on a process of negotiating with the accredited private providers to extend the lease agreements up till the end of examinations. The negotiations will thus commence was the catch up plan and timetable has been agreed and published.
d) Resumption of the Campus Health Services: students demanded that the operations of the campus health services be resumed in all campuses. This was acceded to in the context of the protocol that has been established with the unions on essential services.
c. Discussions on the main Demands
a) Racism: The students were informed that the staff member that was alleged to have made racial comments has been suspended. The university further committed to the development of a roadmap to deal particularly with racism at the university and with transformation broadly. An inclusive working committee should be established to carry forward this work.
b) APS: The university restated its position on the matter and its willingness to revert back to the 2016 APS testing band for the seven programmes. An additional issue of the omission of Maths Literacy as one of the recognised subjects for admission particularly for programmes such as B Com was raised by students as a serious concern. Students felt that if the university felt that the maths literacy was weak in preparing students for higher studies, it should take up this matter with the Basic Education Department so that it can be removed from the schooling curriculum. Management felt strongly that research shows that students who enter the system through the recognition of maths literacy struggle to cope and thus being unable to complete their programmes with the exception of few outliers. It was also agreed that joint discussions on this matter between the parties and the faculties concerned will continue.
c) Clearing of Student Debt for Students in the Debt Relief Programme: The university is committed to debt resolution for poor and missing middle students as defined by NMMU in 2016, who qualify and within the available resources of the university. Students and management are committed to a joint process to implement this within four months.
d) 8% increase: The students accepted the approach of the university but were worried about the sustainability of the DHET’s interim intervention.
e) The University must join us in a student-community based approach towards the struggle for free education by actively engaging with the State: The position of the university on the call for free higher education for the poor was re-affirmed. It was further agreed that the university needs to create platforms for collective engagement on the debate on free higher education for all. The university needs to encourage research by academics and the engagement of various models on the subject. The university needs to make resources available for research and the development of alternative models on free higher education for all. University stakeholders need to develop a programme on the subject and approach to engaging national government once consensus is reached on the debate on free higher education for all. The university council at its 14th October 2016 meeting supported this understanding by stating that:
“…South Africa’s Bill of Rights of 1993 (section 29) states that all citizens have the right to further (and higher) education, which the State, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible. In support of this, and taking into account the injunction of progressive steps towards the fulfilment of this right within the context of a highly unequal society, NMMU Council calls on Government to make a clear commitment to the provision of a system of free higher education for the poor and a new funding model for the so-called “missing middle” in 2017.
Council fully supports the work being done by the Heher Presidential Commission, but believes that the immediate goal of establishing a system of free higher education for the poor and financial support for the “missing middle” should be brought forward for implementation in the new academic year (2017), while the Commission should focus on addressing the longer term, broader funding requirements of universities, including a subsidy formula”.
f) Off-Campus accommodation: Threat to Evict some students: Students expressed concern about the threat to evict students who stay in off-campus residences who owe the landlord/s. The students were asked to give the specific details of the affected students to Finance and Student Affairs for investigation and a possible intervention.
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Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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