Education activists and student unions have called on South African universities to halt the academic and financial exclusions of students.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said there was no doubt 2020 had been the most difficult year in the history of higher education in the country.
“The fact that students studied under conditions of Covid-19 were itself a demonstration of commitment and resilience on the part of students.
“We must admit that the lives of South Africans – including the academic program of students – have been distressing. Therefore, for universities to apply academic and financial exclusions at this difficult time is to put an additional burden on the shoulders of students and parents whose lives, in one way or the other, have already been devastated by the pandemic,” said Makaneta.
He said universities should find a way to use their reserves to cater for academically deserving students with their debt and assist those who did not do that well academically to make the necessary arrangements.
South African Union of Students national executive committee member, Lukhanyo Daweti, said the union had been dealing with the issue of academic and financial exclusions since last year.
“The union concluded that no university must exclude any student this year, even if they (students) have failed dismally, because of the devastating pandemic that students have been grappling with,” Daweti said.
Crowdfunding organization Feenix’s chief operations officer, Leana de Beer, said many young South Africans’ tertiary education is restricted – seen to be expensive or out of reach for those who can’t get funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), bursaries or student loans.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) spokesperson Lauren Kansley said CPUT did not financially exclude academically deserving students. She said academically deserving students who had debt and were NSFAS-qualifying, must sign an acknowledgment of debt (AoD) form and would be allowed to register.
She said students who were academically excluded, but appealed their cases successfully, would be cleared to register, also after signing the AoD (if needs be).
“Financial aid will be able to provide clarity to students who may need additional information,” said Kansley.
She said registration for returning students (in certain courses) began yesterday, while registration for first-time entering and others were expected to continue into March.
South African Students Congress secretary-general Buthanani Goba said they would work with all stakeholders in the sector to ensure the life of students becomes better.