Ministers of higher education and the justice cluster believe their engagement with students over University fees has been honest and fruitful.

Nzimande said the ministers had met with student leaders for more than three hours in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg, to discuss violent protests which have been taking place at several institutions of higher learning across the country.

“We are on the same side with students when they want free education for the poor and those who cannot afford,” Nzimande said.

The minister urged students to return to class, stating that no effort had been spared in trying to proceed with the 2016 academic programme. He also asked for them to be patient with President Jacob Zuma’s commission on higher education, claiming that when its work was complete it would provide lasting solutions.

Members of various university student representative councils took part in the meeting, including leaders from the South African Students Union (SAUS). SAUS President Avela Mjajubana agreed with the ministers and criticised those demanding the immediate implementation of free education.

Some focus was also given to the media and its role during the study fee protests, with Mjajubana decrying the level of coverage given to institutions from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The media is reducing the struggle for free education to elite universities such as Wits University and UCT,” he said.

Institutions from historically disadvantaged backgrounds had been protesting against high study fees for years but with minimal coverage, he said.