The DA will write to the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hlengiwe Mkhize, to request urgent information on plans to address the registration crisis that is deepening at our universities, especially at UNISA. We need to know how many extra students have applied at universities since the announcement of free education, and what impact this has had on their finances and administration.
Miscommunication between the Department, NSFAS and universities resulted in hundreds of UNISA students taking to the streets last week when they did not receive their NSFAS study grants. This has prevented many students from registering and commencing with their academic programme.
Despite reassurances from Minister Mkhize that the university registration period was proceeding smoothly, we now have a situation where students at UNISA are understandably frustrated and uncertain about their futures. Clearly, Minister Mkhize, Treasury and NSFAS were caught completely unawares by the President’s December announcement, and are now scrambling desperately to deal with the fallout – at the cost of our students’ futures.
DA councillors have also been approached by concerned students who have not been able to register at UNISA for the past month due to various disruptions, including the online registration website crashing.
Despite UNISA making place for roughly 20 000 extra students over and above their normal first years, it is clear that its management has been caught in an impossible situation, worsened by ongoing administrative difficulties and strike action. We will also write to the Vice Chancellor of UNISA to request information on how many applications the university received; how many have been successfully processed and how many of the successful applicants received funding.
We will also request details of the university’s funding structures and what its plans are to resolve tensions on the Durban campus.
We simply cannot afford for our higher education sector to dissolve into chaos and turmoil again. That is why the public, and more importantly the students, deserve answers and reassurance as to what government is doing to assist universities and NSFAS in finding solutions and funding for these struggling students.