The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has released a statement calling for universities to manage increases to student fees more carefully.
SAUS state that the annual increase of student fees is consistently higher than the average inflation rate, meaning that middle and working-class households have no way of matching these increases.
This has led to high student debts and students having to drop out of university for financial reasons, which the SAUS sees as unacceptable.
The union is particularly displeased by the way government subsidy of student education, in the form of NSFAS, has been stifled by fee increases despite the actual fund having more than doubled in the last three years.
The union believes that the fund is unsustainable with the current rate of fee increases at South Africa’s tertiary institutions, specifically the University of the Witwatersrand, Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare.
In the short term, the SAUS proposes that an independent ombudsperson be appointed to scrutinise the internal processes behind fee increases and hopefully ease the annual increase in fees. In the long term, however, the union believes that tertiary education will only become accessible as a result of tax reform.
The SAUS believes that students and SRCs around the country need to continue to be vigilant with regards to fee increases. In that vein, the union endorses peaceful protests happening at campuses around the country, including the current #RhodesMIPMustFall protest which began in the early hours of Monday morning at Rhodes University.
Words by Bracken Lee-Rudolph