'We will not abandon students' [DFA (South Africa)]
(DFA (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE Department of Higher Education and Training yesterday confirmed that that National Institute of Higher Education (NIHE) in the Northern Cape will close down at the end of this year and that its Board of Directors will be disbanded by December 31.
A memorandum to the students, which was confirmed by the department's Acting Director General, Dr Diana Parker, stated that "while the closure of NIHE (NC) will take place by December 31, the winding down operations, which will ensure that all student interests are properly catered for, will continue until December 2016".
In the memorandum, the department also explained that the functions and management of the activities of the institutions will be taken over by the Sol Plaatje University (SPU) as a project.
This, according to Parker, means that students would not be negatively affected by the closure of the institution.
"The department is aware that the best interest of the students would be served if they continue to be taught and complete their qualifications in Kimberley. The arrangement that has been made in this regard is that (the) SPU will, as from January 1 2015, take over the administrative, management and governance oversight of the academic project and will continue to manage this until December 2016.
"This means that the pipeline students will continue to receive their lectures as normal for the next two years," the memorandum states.
The project (under the SPU) will be funded by the department.
"The project will ensure that suitable staff are in place and the partner institutions will be involved in the appointment of the lecturing staff."
The department has also assured students, who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and Fundza Lushaka, that they "will not lose these benefits if they continued to meet the respective conditions of loan and bursary schemes".
According to the memorandum "students who are accommodated by NIHE NC will continue to be accommodated in their respective residence (at Phatsimang College in Galeshewe), provided that they continue to meet the conditions regarding their stay in student residences".
The document also points out that the department would soon appoint an administrator to oversee the final closure of the institution and to ensure that the contractual obligations of the institute to outside parties have been dispersed properly and in accordance with the law.
Parker said that a "misunderstanding" could have caused the confusion that sparked violent protests by students at the institution's Phatsimang College in Galeshewe this week.
"We (the department) properly communicated with NIHE's management in July about the closure of the institution and its winding down operations but there appears to have been a misunderstanding which led to the protests at the institution" she added.
The education and transformation officer in the office of the NIHE's Students Representative Council (SRC), Gift Pitso, said however that had the facts about the closure of the institution been communicated properly "this chaos would have never erupted".
The deputy president of the SRC, Edwin Engelbrecht, said that they "are pleased now that the issues have been explained to them in terms of how NIHE will close down. We have given the department until September 15 to come back to us with a comprehensive document that has been signed by all stakeholders who will be affected by the closure of the institution".
"We need to understand how we as students are going to be affected by this closure," Engelbrecht pointed out.
He added that the closure of NIHE would have groundbreaking changes for the SRC as a body that represents students within the institution.
"We need to meet and discuss as students how we will deal with this move into the SPU and this might involve a number of things."
The interim head of the SPU, Professor Yunus Ballim, said his institution "will provide management and governance oversight to the teaching project for the two-year period to ensure that the student facilities and administrative needs are attended to and to ensure proper accountability for the functioning of the project".
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