The department of higher education and training has acknowledged a backlog of more than 100 000 certificates that should have been issued to college students.
Frustrated Ekurhuleni West College students protested this morning at their campus in KwaThema, near Springs.
“There has been a backlog of more than 100 000 unissued certificates, which should be dealt with by the end of August,” said department spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana.
Students have staged peaceful protests outside the college premises since yesterday after the college failed to release their certificates for the technical, vocational, education and training (TVET) levels three and four.
Mechanical student and student representative council (SRC) chairperson, Lucky Nhlapho, said students planned to “continue with the protests until the department forced the college to release their certificates”.
He said the delays were affecting their opportunities to get jobs or internships.
Nhlapho told City Press that the college has summarily suspended him and demanded that he hand over his SRC uniform without any explanation on what grounds he was being stripped of his position.
“The protest was truly peaceful and police were not called by the college to monitor our actions,” he said.
Nkwanyana said efforts were being undertaken to deal with the backlog.
“The department is expecting a report back, next week, from the State Information and Technology Agency (Sita),” Nkwanyana said.
He added that the issue of certificates was a problem across the country and the Sita’s report would help address the students’ concerns.
However, the problem of certificates dates back a couple of years and the National Assembly raised concerns about this in a statement issued last year where the portfolio committee on higher education and training, as well as Sita, committed themselves to eradicate the backlog of TVET certificates – that stood at 192 000 in June last year.
The “Backlog Elimination Project” was launched to clear the backlog by January this year, but the students questioned Parliament’s failure to follow up on its promise.
Nhlapho also told City Press that he received a suspension letter and that he stood to miss out on school work.
“The suspension letter came to me as a surprise because we haven’t been forcing anyone to join the protest and we are protesting outside the college,” said Nhlapho.
However, the college would not respond to media inquiries. Communications officer Cynthia Nzimande directed questions to the principal, Happy Sibande, who has not replied to messages or responded to calls on her mobile phone.