JOHANNESBURG — Universities in South Africa yesterday said that institutions around the country will not allow walk-in registrations for the 2018 academic year.
This comes after President Jacob Zuma announced free tertiary education to poor students and those working class families from this year, and after calls by Economic Freedom Fighters leader, Julius Malema for matriculants, who passed in previous years and couldn’t afford university fees, to report to academic institutions.
“We must make sure that in 2018, all academically deserving students are admitted freely in SA universities and FET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges,” Malema said in his end of year message.
“We call upon all those, who passed matric extremely well in the past and found themselves as petrol attendants, retail or security workers because they could not afford university fees, to report to the academic institution of their choice next year,” he said.
However, Universities South Africa (USAf) has called these statements reckless.
“Meanwhile, USAf is deeply concerned by the call made by some political leaders for students to simply turn up at universities for enrolment without having made appropriate prior arrangements for their admission,” the organisation’s chief executive officer, Ahmed Bawa said in a statement.
“This is unfortunate, as it may result in a replay of events with potential to cause injury to students and their families.”
USAf said institutions would abide by their enrolment plans and targets, which had been agreed with by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and that applications to all 26 universities had already closed in 2017.
“However, we understood clearly that there are first year students, who didn’t previously qualify for financial aid but who now do, under the new Second National Higher Education Transformation Summit dispensation. A clearly defined pathway should be established for such potential candidates,” Bawa said.
“South Africa’s 26 public universities were taken by surprise by the announcement made by Zuma on December 16, 2017.
“We have raised our concerns about the timing of that announcement and the absence of a clear implementation strategy, implementation plan and adequate roll-out time for such a significant development in the funding of our public higher education system,” Bawa said.
He said it would have been “ideal” if universities were given a year to roll out the new system instead of “two to three weeks”.
“We have repeatedly raised our concerns about the use of the student fee issue as a political football. This is not just disingenuous but also opens the way for the issue to be used for purely political purposes as we have just seen,” he said.