The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC) says that students engaged in a nationwide protest which has plunged higher education into a crisis have valid reasons for the demonstrations. The Bishops, however, condemn the violence and the vandalism perpetrated by students.
"The Catholic Church agrees that the student protest has foundation. We are aware as a Church, of the inequality of opportunity for poor and competent students to access third level education. As Bishops spread throughout the country, we have assisted students with our limited resources. But the majority of the deserving students we have not been able to help. What the students desire is more equality in access to good education at university level. We support this request. But we don’t condone the violence, looting, and vandalising of property by students and the use of force by police [and the] army,” says the Archbishop of Pretoria and Bishop-in-charge of SACBC’s communication and media commission, William Slattery, OFM.
The Bishops have called on students to call off their protest saying they have made their point.
“The whole society, other students, universities, and the government are very aware of the student's protest. It is time now for the disturbances to end and for the academic year to continue and for exams to be written.” The Bishops are urging students and the government to an agreement. “Government and students must now iron out their difficulties. A compromise must be considered as the huge financial demands of university free education cannot be found instantaneously,” said Archbishop Slattery.