25 October 2016
Dear colleagues and students
Tomorrow, Wednesday 26 October, the Minister of Finance will table in Parliament the 2016 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).
The University of Cape Town executive believes it is an opportunity for us to refocus the campaign for affordable higher education on government and the national policy process, since it is government that must solve this national crisis – the universities themselves cannot do so.
We can show our solidarity with the students and staff both at UCT and across the country by participating in various ways in the activities surrounding the budget speech. There are three public protests that have been approved by the City of Cape Town.
The picket and the marches are all limited to 1000 people, so we have been informed that people may be prevented from joining if the numbers are too large.
Members of the UCT executive will participate in the UCT Employees Union picket. We invite staff and students to show their support for the cause of greater state funding for higher education and more affordable education for all by participating in one or other of the protests.
Why are we marching and picketing?
We may not all have exactly the same view on how higher education should be funded and whether it should be free for all. But we believe we are at one with the students in calling for a funding system that ensures that no one is prevented from studying at university for financial reasons. We need government to recognise that fees are unaffordable for most students. We are also aligned with the students on the concern that we do not see an urgent plan. The Heher Commission is only scheduled to report in June 2017. After that report there will be public comment and debate, perhaps a White Paper and then time required for a new funding system to be put in place. It is unlikely to happen in the subsequent six months of 2017. This means that the budget for 2018/19 will not have solved the 2019 tertiary education fees issue. It means that for the next three years or so, we will have an annual crisis like this where the government and the Department of Higher Education and Training and others are trying to find money to avoid an increase while a policy is being put in place.
So, we march and picket tomorrow to call on government to take extraordinary measures to resolve some of the issues now, before the end of this year. That would be a sign of goodwill. It would be a sign that we are taking the students' immediate concerns about affordability seriously.
UCT has agreed to allow time off for staff who wish to participate in the picket or the other protests. The time off for the picket will apply for tomorrow, 26 October 2016, from 8:30 to 11:00. As per normal, time off will be operational-needs permitting and is to be agreed by line managers. Jammie Shuttle buses will leave from the North Stop, upper campus, at 8:30 for the Hiddingh campus. We have not been given permission to deviate from the normal routes, hence the buses will go to the Hiddingh campus and people can then walk from there to the picket line. Buses will leave from the Hiddingh campus at 10:30 to return to UCT.
For those staff wishing to participate in the later marches, staff should again discuss this with their direct line managers, who will have the discretion to agree to release colleagues for a three-hour period, taking into consideration operational needs.
Jammie Shuttles will also be provided to assist students and staff that wish to attend the later marches. These will leave from the Tugwell stop from 10:30 onwards. Again, they are restricted to the route to Hiddingh campus and students and staff will need to walk from there. There will be no specific pick-up after the marches in the afternoon, but the normal Hiddingh shuttles will be running.
It must be clear that each individual must decide for themselves whether they wish to participate and whom they wish to support or how they find their way to the march. There can be no force or intimidation or anger directed at anyone not wishing to participate or those taking opposing views on these important matters.
Dr Max Price
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