South Africa's institutions of higher learning have suffered millions of dollars in damage as a result of student protests, authorities confirmed on Wednesday.
In the past three financial years alone, damage to institutions of higher learning was estimated at nearly 800 million rand (about 60 million U.S. dollars), Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pando confirmed in her reply to parliamentary questions raised by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
The estimate does not cover the full cost during this period, as universities and colleges have also had to bear the costs of extra security, repeat classes and exams, and many others, according to the DA.
South Africa's institutions of higher learning have been gripped by frequent student protests which often lead to destruction of property, intimidation and clashes with security guards.
The North West University, the University of Johannesburg and University of KwaZulu-Natal are three institutions are the most hard hit by student protests. Together, the three universities account for over half of the total losses.
Since the start of the 2018 academic year, 12 universities and 11 TVET (technical and vocational education and training) colleges have experienced protests and damage.The past three years have seen the culmination of widespread student protests against tuition fee hikes.
In December last year, then President Jacob Zuma announced that the government would introduce free higher education and training for poor and working-class undergraduate students at public universities, starting in 2018.
But for lack of funding, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has been unable to cope with a flood of extra applications and qualifying students, with tens of thousands of students having not yet received their funding over half way through the academic year. As a result, student protests have grown rather than subsided during 2018.
The DA deplores the use of violence to solve problems, and urges institutions to press charges for illegal acts upon university campuses, Belinda Bozzoli, DA Shadow Ministerof Higher Education and Training said.