Cape Town – Education activists and student unions have called on universities to end academic and financial exclusion of students.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta has said there is no doubt that 2020 has been the most difficult year in the history of higher education in the country.
“The fact that the students studied under Covid-19 conditions was in itself a demonstration of commitment and resilience on the part of the students.
“We have to admit that life for South Africans – including the student academic program – has been tough. Therefore, for universities to apply academic and financial exclusions in this difficult time, it is putting an additional burden on the shoulders of students and parents whose lives, one way or another, have already been devastated by the pandemic, ”Makaneta said.
He said universities should find a way to use their reserves to meet their debts from academically deserving students and help those who have not done well academically to make the necessary arrangements.
South African Union of Students’ national executive committee member Lukhanyo Daweti said the union has been dealing with the issue of academic and financial exclusions since last year.
“The union has concluded that no university should exclude a student this year, even if the latter (students) have failed miserably, because of the devastating pandemic the students are grappling with,” said Daweti.
The operations director of the crowdfunding organization Feenix, Leana de Beer, said higher education for many young South Africans was limited – seen as expensive or out of reach for those who cannot obtain funding through the National Student Financial Assistance System (NSFAS), scholarships or student loans.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) spokesperson Lauren Kansley said CPUT does not financially exclude academically deserving students. She said academically deserving students who were in debt and were eligible for NSFAS, were required to sign an Acknowledgment of Debt (AoD) form and would be allowed to enroll.
She said students who were academically excluded, but who had successfully appealed their cases, would be allowed to enroll, also after signing the AoD (if necessary).
“The financial aid will help clarify things for students who might need additional information,” Kansley said.
She said enrollment for returning students (in some courses) started yesterday, while enrollment for the first time and others is expected to continue in March.
South African Student Congress Secretary General Buthanani Goba said they would work with all stakeholders in the sector to make the lives of students better.