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UCT council meets over mounting student debt

In a communique on Monday morning, Phakeng urged students and staff members not to go on campus on Monday and Tuesday.

In a communique on Monday morning, Phakeng urged students and staff members not to go on campus on Monday and Tuesday.

Published Feb 22, 2022

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CAPE TOWN - While UCT’s council held a special meeting late Monday afternoon to consider the overall approach to outstanding student fee debts, students occupied the university’s Bremner administration building.

As at February 17, UCT was owed R169 million and it’s cumulative debt was R296 million, an increase on the debt over the last several years, the institution said.

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Protest actions by the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) calling for no student to be left behind have been ongoing for about a week.

Students said the 2022 academic year was continuing despite the registration of thousands of students allegedly still pending and exclusion for outstanding fees.

However, UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the executive made repeated assurances, backed up by detailed reports, that the backlog of student registrations had been cleared and that students awaiting the outcomes of their appeals could access online learning platforms by their academic departments.

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In a communique on Monday morning, Phakeng urged students and staff members not to go on campus on Monday and Tuesday.

“Protest action and no blockages to accessing campuses have been reported. The advice to staff for Monday and Tuesday remains unchanged. All teaching will be online and, wherever possible, staff should work remotely. Where required deans will provide additional guidance for teaching and research in their faculties, allowing for specific requirements,” she said.

Phakeng said they were disturbed by the “insensitive and disrespectful nature” of some of the tactics that the SRC was adopting as online teaching was also being disturbed.

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As a result, some lecturers moved to teach students via WhatsApp.

“(Last week) protesting students disrupted an online presentation by one of our newest members of the academic staff, teaching her first course at UCT. Unfortunately, the SRC redistributed this video via their official UCT SRC Twitter page, resulting in further humiliation for the lecturer,” said Phakeng.

SRC acting president Siyabulela Plaatjie said they were looking forward to the outcome of the council meeting where some of their members would be present.

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“Drastic actions such as disturbing online had to be taken to show we are serious that no student should be left behind. The problem is that to us management is claiming they are sorting the registration problem and all affected students have access to learning and academic resources.

“However, many students on the ground have proven that is not the case. Many can’t get allowances for food and other items because they have no proof of being registered. All fee debt must be lifted. We occupied the Upper Campus on Sunday, Sarah Baartman Hall and today the Bremner administration building in solidarity with the affected students,” said Plaatjie.

Cape Times

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