Chamber of Mines invites Wits #FeesMustFall leaders to a meeting

African News Agency (ANA)

Chamber of Mines invites Wits #FeesMustFall leaders to a meeting
Protesting students at the University of Witswatersrand on Tuesday, clashed with the police as their protest for free education turned violent at around midday. The students have been protesting for about three weeks now demanding free education under the campaign #FeesMustFall. Photo ANA.

The Chamber of Mines on Thursday invited the leaders of the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) Students Representative Council (SRC) to meet with them to discuss their memorandum and the Chamber’s response.

Two weeks ago, Wits students marched to the offices of the Chamber of Mines in central Johannesburg as part of their #FeesMustFall campaign, highlighting the mining industry’s role in the economy and also asking it to lobby government in ensuring that the higher education system did not collapse.

Students across public universities have been protesting for four weeks demanding free education under the campaign #FeesMustFall.

The Chamber sent a formal response to the Wits students’ memorandum on Wednesday in a letter addressed to Wits SRC secretary general, Fasiha Hassan.

In the letter, the Chamber’s chief executive Roger Baxter said they believed that consistent, quality, relevant and accessible tertiary education was key to South Africa’s future.

“To facilitate engagement, we propose a 10-a-side meeting between the Chamber and the #FeesMustFall collective on Monday, 17 October 2016 at 14:00 at a mutually convenient venue,” Baxter said in the letter.

“We are interested to hear and understand the model for tertiary education funding that the collective proposes, and to
discuss potential solutions and challenges.”

Baxter said mining companies have consistently over many decades supported higher education infrastructure developments, provided bursaries and scholarships, supported teaching and administrative costs, and sponsored many thousands of students at tertiary educational institutions across the country.

He said the mining industry accounts for 7.7 percent of South Africa’s GDP, and through its contribution of around 10 percent of the country’s corporate taxation, the industry indirectly supported government spending as well.

“This means that the industry is making a contribution to skills development and higher education that is higher than its share of GDP,” Baxter said.

The industry contributed R5 billion to skills development in 2015 alone, Baxter said.

He said this happened in the context of tough economic circumstances for the mining industry as in 2014 and 2015 the mining sector racked up losses of R10 billion and R37 billion respectively.

“We believe that tertiary education should be properly funded by government, with contributions from the corporate sector, and sliding scale contributions from students,” Baxter said.

“The funding model should not place undue pressure on poorer students, and should allow them access to tertiary education on a sustainable basis.”

Baxter said the Chamber and its members are willing to play a role in engaging with all parties to seek a sustainable model for the funding of tertiary education.

Meanwhile, the mediators at the university said they were informed by Wits management that the student leaders would not be attending a meeting scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and the meeting had to be cancelled.

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SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)