Unisa campus shutdown enters fourth day, talks unsuccessful

Talks between National Student Representative Council (NSRC) members and the University of South Africa (Unisa) ended unsatisfactorily on Wednesday after the two parties failed to reach an agreement for the demands laid out by the NSRC.

Unisa campuses across the country remain closed on Thursday as the NSRC refuses to call off the strike.

The nationwide shutdown began on Monday, with NSRC members and South African Students Congress (Sasco) representatives from Eastern Cape campuses calling for negotiations with university management and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

First on the NSRC’s list of demands was that all qualifying 2018 matriculants should be able to register and be given a place at the university.

Unisa responded by stating “the university will make every effort to ensure that all 2018 Higher Certificate students who have applied for admission for cognate Bachelor’s degrees; and meet the admission requirements, will be accordingly registered.”

Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela said, “Our headcount is limited to 380 000 and the first time entering students to 54 434. Unisa is not in a position to accept all qualifying students.”

According to the statement, Unisa management is considering offering space to an additional qualifying 10 887 first-year students.

According to Ngobe Lali — secretary of SASCO in the Eastern Cape — their grievances include issues with admissions, inadequate services across campuses, lack of accommodation and fee increments.

“At the centre of this strike is the increment of fees. They want to increase the fees but there has been no improvement in terms of service. Up until the issues are resolved, there will be a shutdown.”

Lali added that accommodation is a problem particularly at Unisa campuses in the Eastern Cape.

“If you look at Unisa in the Eastern Cape it’s different to Pretoria or other places, it’s not working people with houses who are studying. The Eastern Cape is rural so we need residences for students. If there is an increase in fees there must be an increase in accommodation.”

“The protest is also with regards to NSFAS, there have been problems with admissions- many students have not been admitted,” he explained.

Students are unhappy with the NSFAS allowance, which this year requires them to choose between being issued with a laptop or a R5 000 textbook allowance.

Dr Marcia Socikwa, acting Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor said, “The university regrets that we were not able to arrive at a win-win solution in the talks with the NSRC. We hold a strong view that the matters raised by NSRC do not warrant a shutdown of campuses and disruption of operations.”

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