Evidence of the destruction at UWC during violent protest action by students in 2015. File picture: Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town – The University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Wednesday responded to demands by student protesters, namely on issues of financial exclusion, registration and accommodation.

In a letter to Monde Nonabe, a student protest leader, UWC’s university executive assured the aggrieved of their commitment to ensuring all academically deserving students were not excluded due to a lack of finances.

This, they said, was part of ongoing attempts to prevent any further interruption in the academic programme, which had already been delayed by two weeks, and to ensure that the events of 2015 did not recur.

The executive – which includes Vice-Chancellor Tyrone Pretorius, Deputy Vice-Chancellors Vivienne Lawack and Frans Swanepoel and Registrar Nita Lawton-Misra – stated that UWC’s Student Credit Management (SCM) was mandated with ensuring that all financially needy students were assisted.

“If there is any evidence to the contrary, we endeavour to attend to it immediately,” said the executive.

They said that 11 574 students had received financial clearance. This included those eligible for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding and the so-called “missing middle”.

“All of these 11 574 students have already been registered and our latest update is that there are no longer significant numbers waiting to be cleared,” said the executive, “Hence there are no longer any queues at SCM.”

Images of long queues at UWC had circulated on social media on Wednesday, but the executive denied these were related to alleged delays in registration.

They said that the queues were, in fact, due to timetable and module changes. Further, they said, 100 percent of first-year students had been registered, as had 80 percent of the senior student body. This was an improvement on the 2015 registration period.

While thanking Nonabe for the letter of demand, the executive pointed out that the request for the academic programme to be suspended for a week was impractical.

“As you would be aware we have already postponed the academic programme by two weeks as a result of last year’s postponed examinations,” they said.

“Any further delay will be detrimental to the completion of [the] academic programme for this year.”

The executive also addressed Nonabe’s reference to accommodation, saying that they – like other universities – experienced a housing shortage.

“The accommodation challenge is something the University takes very seriously and will be exploring ways of finding solutions as we go forward,” they said.

The executive concluded by saying that they were actively searching for additional spaces off-campus and that “negotiations in this regard are continuing with potential providers”.