We did not ask for loans, that is not free education – student leaders

Student Representative Councils (SRCs) from some universities across the country are rejecting the recommendations made by the Fees Commission report on the funding of higher education.

On Monday, 13th November, President Jacob Zuma released the official Fees Commission report, which recommended that students can make use of income contingent loans (ICL), through public/private partnerships with financial institutions (i.e. bank loans) which would be underwritten by the government to fund higher education.

Mangosuthu University of Technology SRC president Sandile Dlamini rejected the bank loan recommendation made in the report. “Understanding how banks operate, you’re saying students must go borrow money from the bank, they must be the ones who are now funding the education, but through loans. Who is going to repay those loans in the end,” he told The Daily Vox.

Athi Ndita, SRC deputy president of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) said that #FeesMustFall’s demand was for free education and not loans. “ We’ve never asked for loans, we asked for free education and I don’t think that can be associated with loans,” he said.

The report also proposed the scrapping of application and registration fees for higher education. However some council members are still not pleased with this recommendation.

Ndita said that CPUT had already scrapped its application and registration fees. “There’s nothing new there, we did it last year already. Maybe it is for other universities but at CPUT there was no registration fee this year and there won’t be next year,” he said. Ndita also said that the recommendations by the report are worse than the already existing government funding scheme. “They could have just said they can’t do it and stopped wasting our time. They must pay back the money they spent on that entire commission,” he said.

Nelson Mandela University’s SRC president, Bamanye Matiwane, said that it is contradictory for government to recommend the scrapping of application and registration fees but still offer income contingent loans to students. “They can scrap it but we reject that contradiction,” he said. Matiwane also said that if the department of higher education does not offer free education by 2018, they will shut down their campuses. “We are the students’ voice, we are not going to sell out at any point. We will shut down next year if there is no free, quality education,” he added.

Stellenbosch University student leader Lwando Nkamisa said the SRC was also not pleased with the report’s recommendations, and proposed an alternative means of demanding for free education at higher levels. “There is no longer appetite for mass action, we need to look at other ways of getting attention from government on getting free education.”

The SRC deputy president of the University Currently Known As Rhodes, Kuda Rejoice Chingono, said the SRC still needs to deliberate and establish a stance on the report.

In a tweet, the University of Cape Town’s Democratic Alliance Student Organisation, which won last month’s SRC elections, seemed to reject the Fees Commissions recommendation that students be funded by loans.

Kwanele Mbatha, student leader at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus said the SRC was yet to read the report and consult with students on what the university’s stance on the report should be.

Featured image by Mohammed Jameel Abdulla