/ 13 May 2009

Nzimande disappoints Sasco over Pityana

The South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) has voiced its disappointment at Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s assurances to Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Barney Pityana that his job is safe.

”We call on the minister to attend to the crisis of thousands of students who are refused to write their examination because they don’t have money to pay their fees upfront, the banning of student organisations and the problems of study material which have been continuing for many years under the leadership of Prof Pityana,” said Sasco secretary general Magasela Mzobe.

They were disappointed to read in the Sowetan on Wednesday that Nzimande has said Pityana was not going anywhere.

Mzobe said Nzimande had assured Pityana that his job was safe instead of attending to issues raised by students and workers about the mismanagement of Unisa.

”We are trying to get hold of him [Nzimande],” he said.

According to the Sowetan, Nzimande said it was not his job to fire or hire university vice-chancellors.

”We are hoping to urgently meet with the minister to raise issues that need urgent attention rather than prioritise job security for a vice-chancellor who has failed the nation by abusing his position as a leader in a very important public institution.”

The Young Communist League (YCL) and Sasco have called on Pityana to be removed, accusing him of not allowing more than 200 000 students to write their mid-year exams because they were unable to pay their fees upfront.

”The YCL and Sasco strongly believe that Unisa and other institutions of higher learning should not subject education to the whims of the market fundamentals and be sold at a highest price,” said YCL leader Castro Ngobese.

”This raises serious and fundamental questions around the commodification of education, in the midst of escalating high cost of living and grinding poverty amongst the majority of South Africans, especially amongst the working class and the poor.”

Ngobese implored Nzimande to ”hasten long overdue programmes to regulate fees in institutions of higher learning, as a strategic role player in the skills development of our country”. — Sapa