Parents need to play a bigger role in debates over university fees, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday.
“Where are the parents in all of this? They are leaving big decisions in the hands of 19 and 20-year-old students,” he said during an interview on Pretoria-based Impact Radio.
He said government had started talking to parents about their children. They were the ones helping their children get through university.
“Students just want to demand and some of them are not even willing to listen and engage,” Nzimande said.
A caller who identified himself as Thabo and a parent of a university student, said: “I told my son I don’t have money. If he is going to waste time, he should tell me his plans for the rest of the year.”
Nzimande said those who wanted free education were being reckless.
“If you say universities can’t increase [fees], you are killing them,” he said.
Nzimande condemned the violence at Wits University, and the arson at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus law library on September 6.
It was barbarism, he said. Irreplaceable documents were lost in the fire at UKZN.
“What happened at Wits was done by criminals and thugs.”
On Wednesday afternoon, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse a group of rock-throwing Wits students on the streets of Braamfontein. Three students were injured and two were arrested.
Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said three students were injured. One was shot with rubber bullets.
Several universities around the country suspended activities after Nzimande on Monday announced the universities could increase fees up to a maximum of 8%.
He told Impact Radio it was an “inflation-linked adjustment”.
Nzimande said students from households earning less than R600 000 a year would not have their fees increased for the second year running.
Students outside this category would have to wait to see what increase individual universities decided on.