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UCT to register students with debt as national shutdown begins

University of Cape Town (UCT) students protest in Cape Town. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

University of Cape Town (UCT) students protest in Cape Town. Picture: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency/ANA.

Published Mar 15, 2021


Cape Town - The University of Cape Town (UCT) council has approved the proposal by the executive for students with 2020 debt to be allowed to register this year.

This after UCT students embarked on a protest demanding the university allow all students to register last week.

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The SA Union of Students (Saus) called for students to embark on a national shutdown with effect from today.

The call for a national shutdown comes amid ongoing student protests at Wits University, University of Johannesburg (UJ), the University of Limpopo, the University of Cape Town and the Central University of Technology as students vowed to continue the fight for free higher education.

The students are calling for historic debts to be scrapped and free registration for all students in 2021, amongst other demands.

Saus spokesperson Thabo Shingange said the union convened an urgent national executive committee meeting that included all student representative councils across the country in preparation for the 2021 academic year and the challenges that have crippled the sector.

Shingange said the meeting took place from Saturday to Sunday following the submission of student demands to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

He said the austerity measures announced by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to cut budgets and reduce university subsidies for higher education were a sign of an uncaring government.

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“We thus unambiguously and vehemently reject the neo-liberal Budget that seeks to defund the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), thereby putting the future of many students in jeopardy. Austerity must fall,” said Shingange.

He said they demanded that NSFAS take the issues of students seriously and with urgency.

“Saus continues to push for the funding decisions of all students to be communicated, appeals to be addressed, and allowances to be distributed timelessly.”

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He called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to rise to the occasion and ensure that the defunding of universities and higher education budget cuts were reversed and free education was realised.

“We demand all student allowances to be provided in March, as the academic year starts in March. Landlords are already harassing students for payment and some may even face eviction,” he said.

On Monday, the national shutdown kicked off in Johannesburg as student protesters blockaded roads and burnt tyres outside UJ’s Bunting Campus in Auckland Park.

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JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla told The Star that early on Monday morning at around 7am, the JMPD received reports that there were students picketing outside the SABC offices on Henley Road, Auckland Park.

UCT’s chair of council, Babalwa Ngonyama, said universities needed to work collaboratively to find creative and innovative solutions to the funding crisis.

Ngonyama said the UCT council remained committed to supporting all efforts to ensure that academically eligible and deserving students were not denied the opportunity to study due to lack of funding.

“The funding crisis is a national crisis. No university can solve it on its own – the higher education sector urgently needs intervention from the South African government,” said Ngonyama.

She said they must put the students who were in desperate need of financial aid at the forefront of their thinking and planning, in order to support the future and sustainability of higher education in the country.

NSFAS’s chief corporate services officer, Sibongile Mncwabe, said the scheme was pleased to announce that the funding eligibility decisions for new students for NSFAS bursary support were released on Friday.

Cape Argus

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