New Sasco leader urges Ramaphosa to help solve student housing crisis
"We are homeless - silala emaweni."
This quote from late Ladysmith Black Mambazo frontman Joseph Shabalala started the address by SA Students Congress (Sasco) president Bamanye Matiwane at a press briefing held at Luthuli House in central Johannesburg on Wednesday morning.
Matiwane said the words were used not just to honour Shabalala, who died on Tuesday, but also to outline the student accommodation crisis in higher education.
“We want to capture the frustrations of many students in our country who yearn for decent, affordable and safe student housing,” he said.
Matiwane praised the Right To Learn campaign, which he dubbed as "seeking to reverse systematic exclusion of poor students from working-class backgrounds from accessing higher education and training".
This exclusion, he said, was a result of the implementation of fee-free higher education, which has led to many universities increasing their Admission Point Scores (APS) in order to "gatekeep" some professions in previously advantaged universities.
“We call on the standardisation of APS scores to enable us to advance towards a single, coordinated higher education in the land,” he said.
Matiwane denounced the Central Application Clearing House (CACH) system, which he said was "proving to be less effective" by "guaranteeing no student space in universities or TVET colleges, and being exclusionary to those in remote areas of the country without internet coverage".
Commending the work done by current National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) administrator Randall Carolissen, Sasco said they would be advocating for the appointment of a NSFAS board.
They also announced the implementation of various campaigns, such as #TVETsMustRise, a mental health awareness project called Graduate Alive, and the rollout of free sanitary pads across all campuses.
Matiwane said they were members of the community before they were members of Sasco and therefore ought to have a say on current affairs.
Sasco's leadership said they expected President Cyril Ramaphosa's state of the nation address (Sona) on Thursday to include a commitment to building more universities and improving existing institutions. They also urged Ramaphosa to make a bold commitment towards resolving the student accommodation crisis.
“Should President Ramaphosa fail to declare these emergency student issues, we will take war to his doorstep and demand to be taken seriously,” warned Matiwane.