The Kramer Law Building was filled with students singing Struggle songs as they waited for management to address them.
According to the university’s SRC president Declan Dyer about 2 500 students were at risk of being financially excluded when the year began. He said they had been in talks with the university’s management since December about the issue.
The UCT student leadership said by Sunday, a decision needs to be made by the institution to allow all academically deserving students to register, no financial exclusions.
In a statement released by the university today, the university claims to have set aside R30 million for historical debt and has spent R1.4 billion on student funding.
UCT has set aside R30m to assist students with historic debt. The university spent R1.4 billion on student funding in 2020. UCT has about 1 655 students with historic debt. The UCT executive remains committed to engaging with the SRC. Read more: https://t.co/9cFA83mufv pic.twitter.com/Ogu7vhXfm9
— UCT (@UCT_news) March 12, 2021
Spokesperson Elijah Moholola said: “The University of Cape Town is aware of the issues that have been raised by the student representatives, some of which are at national level while others are institutional.
“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.
“The pending NSFAS outcomes do not necessarily prohibit students from registering for the 2021 academic year. UCT does not charge any registration fee. Students can register without having to make any payment, including the minimum initial payment,” he said.
According to Moholola, the university has about 1 655 students with historic debt, amounting to R88m.
He said last month, the university had put out an open call for any student with historic debt to apply through the annual financial aid appeals process.
“There is no doubt that 2020 had an impact on all students and their families, with some losing their livelihoods as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Moholola.
The uprising against financial exclusion due to historical debt first sparked at Wits University where about 6 000 students claimed were unable to register for the academic year due to outstanding debt. The students at Wits called for the debt cap limit to be increased to R150 000 while the university cap stood at R120 000.
Wits University said student debt was at R1bn.
On Tuesday a man was killed amid student protests. He was shot with a rubber bullet. The Independent Police Investigative Unit (Ipid) is investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, Education activist Hendrick Makaneta has called on institutions of higher learning to allow students to register for this academic year despite the historic debt.
“Universities are public institutions. It cannot be correct that they insist on payment of historic debt even amid the pandemic as if they are some private entity. Government should step into the terrain of higher education and ensure that all academically deserving students get registered.” Makaneta said.
He said South Africa cannot continue to deny students a chance to study.
“We need to keep the doors of learning open as it was envisaged in the freedom charter. It is not correct that Wits has responded with force to unarmed students,” he said.