South African President Jacob Zuma has advised the country’s protesting students to resume classes, saying that whilethe government is sympathetic to their calls for free tertiary education, the focus should be to ensure that the 2016 academic programme is completed while still finding medium to long term solutions.
Addressing the Biennial Heads of Diplomatic Mission conference taking place at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in Pretoria on Tuesday, President Zuma said the government understood the need to ensure that children of the poor and the working class obtained higher education.
“There is therefore no need for violence and the kind of protests we have seen, which give an impression that students think the government is opposed to what they are asking for,” he said.
“We are not opposed to the call, we support it. It is a noble call. We also urge them to support the orderly processes of finding solutions to this important challenge. They must not break doors that are already open.”
He said that what was worrying about the protests was the violence, arson and destruction of property and he stressed that the police would continue to ensure that those who use genuine grievances to promote criminal acts are arrested and face the full might of the law.
Police have confirmed that 567 people have been arrested in 265 cases during fees protests over the last eight months. The charges included violence, intimidation and malicious damage to property.
President Zuma assured South Africans that education remains a key priority of government. This can be seen in the fact that 80 per cent of schools are no-fee schools and the children of the poor and the working class do not pay fees.
With regards to higher education, President Zuma quoted the Freedom Charter, which states that “Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit”.
The expansion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), he said, is part of efforts of ensuring that more children of the poor and the working class attend universities, universities of technology and technical and vocational training colleges.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.