He was addressing the nation on Friday from a press room at the Union Buildings at the conclusion of a meeting with vice-chancellors, chairpersons of university councils, presidents of student representative councils and representatives of student organisations nationally.
The meeting follows students across the country protesting against the high cost of tertiary education in the country and many tertiary institutions suspending academic activities.
Thousands of students from various universities and student organisations gathered at the seat of government on Friday hoping for a solution to the impasse to university fee increases.
“The meeting agreed that government needs to lead a process that goes wider than fees, looking at the higher education sector. On the matter at hand, we agreed that there will be a zero increase of university fees in 2016,” announced the President. The meeting further agreed that the vice-chancellors will extend the time for the examinations period to compensate for the time lost during the student protests.
He said discussions will continue looking at broader issues than the fees.
At the meeting, the President had received a briefing from student leaders on matters of concern to them, which include fees and other challenges including transformation issues as well as matters relating to the living conditions of students at universities.
He said he had listened to the views of vice chancellors and chairpersons of university councils.
“In the long term, there is a package of issues that was raised at the meeting that needs to be followed up. These include free education, institutional autonomy, racism and what the students call ‘black debt’,” said President Zuma.
The Presidential task team that had been established to address funding mechanisms will be broadened to look at all these and other broader transformation issues affecting higher education.
President Zuma said government understands the difficulty faced by students from poor households and urges all affected to allow the process to unfold to find long term solutions in order to ensure access to education by students.
“I thank all stakeholders for the constructive manner in which the meeting was conducted which augurs well for future engagements that will seek solutions that are in the best interests of the country.”