The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation believes the University of Zululand is ready for the 2023 academic year, after concluding an oversight visit to its Dlangezwa campus. The committee is conducting oversight visits to KwaZulu-Natal to engage with post-school education and training institutions in the province on governance and management-related matters, as well as teaching and learning, and expanding access to education and training.

The committee expressed it’s satisfaction that all governance structures, including the university Council, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Institutional Forum, agreed that it is all systems go for the academic year.

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, said: “The university has a fully constituted SRC and we understand the importance of this structure in ensuring that the voices of the students find space in the decision-making by the university.”

The committee further commended the university for its effective online application and registration processes, as well as its efforts to extend the registration period if and when necessary. It will also allow walk-in registrations due to the challenges students face when coming from rural areas.

The committee was happy that the University of Zululand had committed itself to pay those students whom the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has confirmed are eligible for funding and living allowances while they await the upfront NSFAS payment. “We are of the view that this is a progressive step to ensure that students can be able to pay residence fees to private providers and have meals and transport fare to come to the institution,” said Ms Mkhatshwa.

The committee was given a tour of the site for the new two student residences, each with capacity for 1 500 beds, which are under construction at the Dlangezwa Campus, as well as three older residences that were decommissioned for refurbishment. All the projects are expected to be ready to hand over to the university by October/November 2023. The committee asked the university to provide the committee with its infrastructure maintenance plan, given that most of the infrastructure at the Dlangezwa Campus requires refurbishment.

During its walk-about, the committee observed that the university is in the process of building a new engineering facility to expand on the offering of the engineering programmes. This will also allow other accredited programmes to be offered in future in an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.

The committee further applauded the university for developing a safety and security app for students to use if they have safety concerns. The SRC also added that the app is having an impact and has assisted many students to receive prompt interventions.

The committee expressed a view that the beginning of academic year at tertiary institutions is usually marred by student protest. The committee implored management of institutions of higher learning to ensure they have open-door policies in place and engage with stakeholders on the issues affecting them. The committee further urged stakeholders to take each other into their confidence so that joint solutions can be found to speedily resolve grievances. Protests should only occur as a last resort.

Jabulani Majozi
25 January 2023