The University of Cape Town (UCT) has confirmed that it will not prevent students with historical debt from registering for tuition at the institution in 2021. 

The measure – which is a reaction to calls from students across the country  was announced by the UCT Council, which held meetings over the weekend in light of recent unrest at several of South Africa’s universities over the past week.

UCT extends condolences to slain Wits student  

Babalwa Ngonyama, Chair of UCT Council, said in a statement on Sunday that the funding crisis unfolding among SA’s students and its aspiring youth needs urgent national consultation, and said that the events that have taken place at Wits University in Braamfontein over the past week have highlighted a need to act with “sensitivity, care and a humane approach”. 

“The UCT Council notes with concern the disturbing events unfolding at universities in the country and the heightened tense atmosphere on many campuses,” she said, also extending condolences to the family of Mthokozisi Ntumba, who was killed during the protest action earlier in the week. 

“The loss of life under such tragic circumstances is deeply regrettable – our thoughts are with the family during this time of personal loss,” said Ngonyama. “Council reaffirms the value of the right to protest – to do so lawfully and peacefully and without fear of reprisal. Council also calls on all those concerned, including the South African Police Service, to exercise the necessary restraint.”

 Students with debt will not be blocked from registering in 2021

Ngonyama said that the UCT Council welcomes the recent pronouncements by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to review the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), saying that students who are totally dependent on the structures are taken cafe of adequately. 

“The funding crisis is a national crisis. No university can solve it on its own – the higher education sector urgently needs intervention from the South African government. We must put the students who are in desperate need of financial aid at the forefront of our thinking and planning, in order to support the future and sustainability of higher education in South Africa,” she said. 

To this end, UCT has committed to the following: 

  • With immediate effect the student registration fee block in respect of 2020 debt will be lifted for South African students and students from the rest of Africa. This applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate students, excluding students from the UCT Graduate School of Business. The lifting of the fee block does not extinguish the existing debt.
  • UCT will make every effort to support students in the process of servicing their debt, and will make R30 million available to support criterion-based debt appeals for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
  • The UCT executive will engage stakeholders across the higher education sector to take up a sectorial approach to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to work towards a long-term solution to the funding crisis in the sector.

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Presh JM Reporter

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