By SIMTHANDILE FORD and SILUSAPHO NYANDA
The Fees Commission hearing held at East London City Hall yesterday had to be suspended after angry students stormed the venue.
The students from the University of Fort Hare and other universities questioned the credibility of the consultations.
Police had to be called in to escort commission chairman Judge Jonathan Heher out of the council chambers.
About 30 minutes into his presentation, Fort Hare vice-chancellor Mvuyo Tom was disrupted by about 200 students who entered the council chamber, demanding the immediate release of Fort Hare’s residence report.
Judge Heher called for order and threatened to adjourn the meeting if the students did not calm down.
During the chaos, one student took a microphone and told Heher that the commission was a waste of time and the students did not recognise the commission or Heher.
Heher stood up and left the hall. On his way to the exit, some of the students approached him, trying to stop him from leaving.
They told him to listen to their presentation, which they said was a true reflection of what was going on at their institutions.
Commission officials blocked the students, shielding Heher and enabling him to leave.
Police then escorted the students out.
The commission later recommenced.
Walter Sisulu University vice-chancellor Rob Midgley, in his submission, said the university had not done a study on the feasibility of free education but acknowledged the current funding model was not sufficient to fund higher education.
He proposed a system where student fees were charged on the basis of affordability.
Midgley said 85% of students who were at the institution depended on some form of government funding.
He said 48.7% of WSU’s income came from state subsidies and 48.2% was fee related.
“Because they come from the poorest of the poor, NSFAS pays for 72% of our undergraduate students,” he said.
The commission also heard submissions from the National Tertiary Education Union, which said it was concerned the call for insourcing would lead to a situation where staff were paid less by institutions – as at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
Led by its secretary-general Grant Abbott, the union gave its input on ways in which free education could be achieved. These included converting tertiary staff to be recognised as full civil servants paid by the state.
The union also proposed that the government separate the budget allocations of other higher education institutions and TVET colleges.
He said although they supported the call by students, they were concerned about violent protests. — firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com