Nzimande calls on college students to protest peacefully

Higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande has called on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to engage in discussion with his department to resolve their “legitimate issues”.

On Wednesday the department said it had been informed by some college principals that some student formations at their institutions intend taking action over a range of grievances at the start of the term.

This comes a day after the South African Further Education and Training Student Association (SAFETSA) announced its plan to shut down the country’s 50 TVET colleges on Thursday.

Yonke Twani‚ the association’s president‚ told journalists in Pretoria on Tuesday that their repeated pleas to the department of higher education and training on issues of weak leadership‚ corruption‚ unqualified lecturers‚ lack of certification and student support that have collapsed the sector had fallen on deaf ears.

In a statement released on Wednesday evening‚ Nzimande called on students wishing to protest to do so “peacefully” and for those who wish to continue teaching and learning do so unhindered and without intimidation.

Nzimande pointed to the considerable progress made since the department took over colleges in the sector less than two years ago.

He said TVET colleges have been and remain on a continual road to improvement since the unification of structures and management.

The minister said he was aware that there was still a way to go until the institutions were at peak performance in delivering on their mandate of empowering young people across the country with the skills and knowledge they require to become useful and active participants in their local economies.

“Bringing the sector into a centrally managed and guided framework was a very important step towards ensuring that we create and sustain real and viable alternatives to a university course for those young people who want to gain a post-school skill‚ but who may either have not achieved a university pass‚ or who may not have the inclination to pursue a course of academic study‚” Nzimande said.

He said in some places‚ the department was still in the process of ensuring that the right procedures are used when processing students‚ and some institutions need further help to get on track‚ for example in ensuring that students who qualify also receive their certificates quickly.

“We are determined not to let this situation go on for longer than is absolutely necessary‚ and we are working with the college authorities and other relevant institutions such as SETA to rectify any deficiencies…We call on the students representative bodies at the TVET colleges to engage with us and their administrations as we together ensure continuing improvement‚” he said.