UCT Faces Rocky Start To Academic Year

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The University of Cape Town has been dealing with a number of intense on-campus disruptions to it's daily activities, meant to resume for the 2023 academic year on Monday, 13 February 2023.

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However, student protests have paused those proceedings, as lectures were cancelled on the first day.

The university's Student Representative Council (SRC) has called for a campus-wide shutdown to protest the financial exclusion/fee block of students, who are unable to register for the academic year or receive their results due outstanding fees, as well as issues relating to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). 

The SRC is of the belief that all students who are academically eligible should have access to classes as well as student housing.

As of two years ago, if a student owed anything above R1000, registration was not possible. However, UCT's Council has amended its fee debt threshold from R1 000 to R10 000 amid the protests, but the SRC says this is not acceptable as the university’s fees are generally unreasonably high.

The changing of the threshold was to allow for students who have a debt of below R10 000 to register for classes and accommodation, but Swazi Hlophe, UCT SRC Vice-President, says when looking at the high cost of tuition and residence fees, compared to the threshold of R10 000, it does not do enough to help the students. 

The increase of tuition fees for 2023 in tertiary institutions across the country has been in talks for a while now, much to the disapproval of student councils, parents and the students themselves.

Many public universities proposed a tuition increase of between 5% and 7%, which they say will allow institutions to cover the cost of inflation. However, this increase will have be strenuous on families and households, as university education will not become affordable for many. 

UCT has resorted to online classes "indefinitely" amidst the protests, which SRC Vice-President, Hlengiwe Gugulethu Lisa Dube, says is disheartening and further disadvantages students.

"Not everybody has access to wi-fi. Not everybody has access to devices to access those online lessons. Furthermore, those students who are unable to register are now still falling behind," said Dube. 

Dube affirmed the notion that no UCT student will be left behind, saying that "If all students cannot go to school, no student will go to school."

UCT Spokesperson, Elijah Maholola, says it is "disappointing" that protest action was taken due to the fact that two weeks ago, the same issues the SRC is advocating for were discussed with the university and somewhat resolved.  

"One would have expected a similar thing if the SRC felt that whatever was agreed [upon] back then, two weeks ago, was no longer addressing whatever concerns they had put on the table," said Maholola. 

Although lectures have seemingly been called off and the institution will be shutdown, according to the SRC, the university is contradicting that. UCT has stated that it will proceed with operations as planned, and that Faculties and Departments will communicate with students when necessary.

The disruptions taking place on the institution's upper and lower campuses have also affected UCT's shuttle services, prohibiting staff and students from having accessible transport to and from campus and residences. 


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UCT campus being shutdown

Disruptions are currently underway at the University of Cape Town and students have been advised to make alternative arrangements. This as the university is engaging with the Student Representative Council to resolve issues.


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