UCT students gather at the campus to discuss the issue of NSFAS, student fees, exclusion and also in support of the Wits students. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)
UCT students gather at the campus to discuss the issue of NSFAS, student fees, exclusion and also in support of the Wits students. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

UCT mass meeting calls for students with debt to be allowed to register

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Mar 12, 2021

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Cape Town - Student anxiety in Cape Town is growing over whether there will be money for them to study this year, as hundreds gathered at a meeting led by UCT’s student representative council (SRC) on Thursday, calling for all who have outstanding fees to be allowed to register for the 2021 academic year.

UCT claims it has set aside about R30 million to assist eligible students with historic debt to ensure they are able to register and continue their studies.

According to SRC president Declan Dyer about 2 500 students were at risk of being financially excluded when the year began.

UCT has said this was now standing at about 1 655 students, amounting to an expenditure of about R88m.

“We have been meeting with the executive of the university since December around this matter and submitted numerous proposals, requests and had discussions with them,” Dyer said.

“Last week we issued a last set of demands, the core one being every student to be able to register for this academic year regardless of outstanding fees. In their response at the end of last week the executive only responded to some of the grievances but not this core issue.

“Today we briefly met with them again and if there is no positive response by Friday we will be guided by students on the next step to take. If they do respond then we will decide if we are satisfied with the resolution,” he said.

UCT SRC President Declan Dyer talks to the students. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Earlier in the day a small group of students wearing black picketed in front of the Cape Town Central police station to show solidarity with fellow Wits students and called for police brutality to end during student demonstrations.

UCT’s Elijah Moholola said: “UCT has, as has been the case in preceding years, put measures in place to assist eligible students with historic debt. In February 2021, UCT put out an open call for any student with historic debt to apply through the annual financial aid appeals process. UCT has set aside around R30 million for this purpose. UCT, like all other universities, is awaiting NSFAS funding decisions for 2021 applicants. NSFAS handles all funding applications and these are outside the control of the universities.”

Moholola said pending NSFAS outcomes do not necessarily prohibit students from registering for the 2021 academic year.

The SA Union of Students has held universities responsible as much as the government for the latest protest actions across the country claiming students' rights to learn were compromised by a system that is shaped and driven by business principles.

“Regrettably, we condemn the complacency of university managements in failing to find amicable solutions to financially clear all students to register as demonstrated by the University of Western Cape (UWC).

“Instead, the vice-chancellors across the country are comfortable with earning high salaries that go up to R5 million (StatsSA, 2020) in return to sanction murderous police on their own students; they are complicit in the violence and death of students and citizens who are violated and killed by instructions from university managements,” said the union.

UWC’s rector and vice-chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius has sent a letter out to students announcing the university has financially cleared all students to register for the 2021 academic year.

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