South African business leaders have expressed a willingness to financially assist poor university students at a meeting with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande in Sandton, near here, Tuesday.

The meeting came as violent student protests, demanding free education, persisted on several campuses across the country.

The spokesman for the Department of Higher Education, Harold Maloka, said: “There were in-depth discussions around what type of funding models and how funds are going to be used best and so on.

“The unfortunate part is that I am not at liberty to be able to disclose those particular details because they need to be considered by the Cabinet and once that is done we will be able to articulate this in fuller details.

“Basically, with this model, you will remember that NSFAS (the National Student Financial Aid Scheme) takes care of the poor students, but this is for those who cannot necessarily afford, who are part of the missing middle, and it looks at coming up with some kind of a long-term solution towards that particular funding.”

Meanwhile, a mass meeting to encourage dialogue and a peaceful resolution to the current student fees protest crisis will take place on Wednesday afternoon. The meeting will be held at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church next to the University of the Witwatersrand here and the discussions will centre on the struggle to save and fund public universities.

An invitation to the discussion has been issued to everybody who wishes to see an end to violence on campuses, and who would like to be part of the solution to the problems that plague our institutions of higher learning.

Father Graham Pugin, who has been involved with the students from the start of the protests, will be speaking at the event. He will be joined by former General Secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) Jay Naidoo and former Public Protector (Ombudsman) Thuli Mandonsela.