The University of Cape Town (UCT) has lifted the student registration block for the new academic year but it has not cleared previously blocked students’ historical debt.
According to UCT Spokesperson, Elijah Moholola, it means that students who have 2020 debt will be allowed to register for the new academic year.
“The fee block decision applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, excluding students from the Graduate School of Business. The lifting of the fee block does not extinguish the existing debt.”
The new academic year got off to a rocky start last week when student fees protests in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, resulted in the death of 35-year-old bystander, Mthokozisi Ntumba, after he was shot by police.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesperson, Ndileka Cola confirmed that four police officers have been arrested in connection with his death.
On Friday March 12, students faced with financial exclusion protested at UCT’s lower and middle campuses.
The SRC and hundreds of students occupied the Kramer Building on Middle Campus where the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is located until demands were met.
SRC president, Declan Dyer says they raised a list of demands to management which included that all students be allowed to register regardless of whether they have financial debt.
“We wanted the fee block for registration not only to be lifted, we wanted their historical debt to be wiped away completely,” he said.
Mr Dyer said 2 500 pupils were facing financial exclusion because of the fee block.
Mr Dyer said while they are happy that the fee block has been lifted, it’s not a victory while students still sit with historic debt.
Mr Dyer said the SRC and students ended the occupation of the Kramer Building on Sunday March 14.
Bachelor of Science student and Resident Council of Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania (PASMA), Sipho Labithi said in the middle of a pandemic, it’s not possible for students to afford the high university fees.
“We want all the students to come back and register.”
Chair of UCT Council, Babalwa Ngonyama, said the university will make every effort to support students in the process of servicing their debt, which totals R30 million.
Criterion-based debt appeals for both undergraduate and postgraduate students have been made available, she said.
“Universities needed to work collaboratively to find creative and innovative solutions to the funding crisis, and the council remains committed to supporting all such efforts to ensure that academically eligible and deserving students are not denied the opportunity to study due to lack of funding.”
Ms Ngonyama also welcomed the recent pronouncements by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande to review the NSFAS in the best interests of students.
Minister Nzimande shared in a statement on Sunday March 14 that the historic debt of NSFAS-qualifying students is being addressed through a process between NSFAS and institutions.
“NSFAS-qualifying students with historic debt are able to register when they sign an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) form, while the process is underway,” he said.
Minister Nzimande also condemned the police brutality that resulted in the death of Mr Ntumba.
Mr Moholola said the university would continue to interact with the student representatives.
“UCT will also continue to work with other universities to engage with the government, in order to address the challenges faced by the NSFAS scheme,” he said.
UCT’s registration end tomorrow, Thursday March 19. Mr Moholola said first year students’ registration concluded last Friday March 12, while 99 percent of undergraduate students were registered by Monday March 15.