A letter had been sent out to students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius, in which the university declared that no student would be blocked from registering to study if they had outstanding fees.
This letter had been circulating on social media and was later confirmed to be true by the university's spokesperson Gasant Abarder.
Professor Pretorius said that UWC understood the difficulties many students are facing and they have decided to financially clear all students to allow them to register. They will still have to make arrangements to settle fees and debts later in the year.
Amid anxiety surrounding registration, Pretorius also announced that UWC would be extending registration to the 12 March.
Spokesperson Gasant Abarder says that the university is experiencing historical debt of about R455 million due from approximately 33 000 students and that in 2020 R118 million was outstanding from around 9800 students.
Abarder says that this reflects the profile of the students who are mostly first generation students and who are "often very deserving but not always by the means".
He says this was taken into consideration by the university when making the decision to clear students for registration.
"One of the things that we factored into it is that funding either privately or other funding by government sources has been late this year, which would normally be covered by registration," said Abarder.
VC Pretorius echoed this saying that there had been a delay in registration due to many factors including financial difficulties that many families have been finding themselves in due to Covid-19 as well as the delay in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in advising the university about the successes in funding applications.
He says that the registration fee would be added to student's tuition account and that the upfront payment would be disregarded which allows for immediate registration.
"Students will however be expected to submit a payment plan in respect of their student debt by mid-April 2021," said Pretorius.
Senior students who already have an outstanding balance will have to sign an Acknowledgement of Debt by mid-April too.
This move to financially clear students for registration has been welcomed across social media and many are encouraging other universities across South Africa to follow in the same direction.
However student protests have identified that the actions of some universities to allow students to register even when they have outstanding fees, or cannot pay the registration fee, is only a short-term solution. The debt that the students owe to the universities does not go away and the students are still required to either make a payment arrangement plan or sign an acknowledgement of debt to continue with their studies.
The student protests across the country are focused on finding a long-term solution to the problem. Student protesters claim that while the government and President are saying they will support students, and that education is their right, these words are not being put into action.
The University of Western Cape (UWC) has just financially cleared ALL students to register for the 2021.
This means no student will be blocked from registering due to any outstanding fees
As we wait for other universities... 👀 pic.twitter.com/8eZbv3KDw8
— Thabo Shingange ➐ (@thabo_shingange) March 4, 2021