The University of Cape Town (UCT) says it has set aside about R30 million to cater for students who might be owing fees at the institution. The university says this has been communicated to affected students in February.
It says today’s protests are unnecessary as no students will be unfairly prevented from registering for the 2021 academic year.
UCT students are demanding free, quality education:
Student debt at UCT stands at around R88 million from 1 655 students with historic debt. The Student Representative Council (SRC), however, says about 2 500 stand to be excluded.
SRC President, Declan Dyer, says they are waiting for university management for further talks.
“We are occupying the building at the seat of the fees office and the financial aid office, we will be here until the VC comes, or the university executive comes to address students on the demands that we have submitted to them. Of course the core demand is that every single student must be allowed to register this year and fee blocks must be lifted,” explains Dyer.
Some students say they are worried about their future.
“We are here because NSFAS has not issued us allowances and that some students are not able to register because of historical debt,” says one of the students.
Another student says, “We are saying they must invite those students back into campus because online learning is bad enough, it has sabotaged our learning.”
Students express their challenges:
UCT says despite reduced funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the institution remains committed to funding needy students through its own funds and scholarships.
Spokesperson Elijah Moholola says R1.4 billion was put aside in the previous year towards student funding. He says some of the money was used to fund undergraduate studies.
“In February 2021 UCT put out an open call for all students with historic debt to apply through the annual financial aid appeals process, UCT has set aside around R30 million for this purpose. The university has about 1 665 students with historic debt which amounts to around R88 million. UCT like all other universities is awaiting NSFAS funding. UCT does not charge any registration fee; students can register without having to make any payment including the minimum initial payment,” says Moholola.
Students say they will protest until all historic debt at UCT is cleared. The City of Cape Town authorities say they are monitoring the protest.