The University of Cape Town Council has approved the proposal by the executive for all students with historic debt to be allowed to register in 2021, reports IOL.

This is following the ultimatum presented to Higher Education, Science and Innovation Ministor Blade Nzimande this weekend: write off student debt of R10bn of we’ll shut down universities, reports Media 24.

The student registration fee block, in respect of 2020 debt will be lifted, with immediate effect, for South African students, IOL continued. The lifting is said to align with UCT’s Vision 2030, which positions it as a leading university in and for Africa.

The fee block applies to both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Students from the Graduate School of Business, however, are excluded. The lifting of the fee block does not extinguish the existing debt, reported IOL.

R30 million has also been made available to support criterion-based debt appeals for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. These decisions were taken at Council’s virtual meeting held on Saturday, 13 March.

It has been suggested that universities need to work collaboratively to find creative and innovative solutions to the funding crisis

“The funding crisis is a national crisis. No university can solve it on its own – the higher education sector urgently needs intervention from the South African government. We must put the students who are in desperate need of financial aid at the forefront of our thinking and planning, in order to support the future and sustainability of higher education in South Africa.

“We therefore welcome the recent pronouncements by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation to review the National Student Financial Aid Scheme in the best interests of students whose higher education funding is totally dependent on an effective, efficient and adequately-funded government financial aid programme,” said Chair of Council, Babalwa Ngonyama.

The UCT executive will engage stakeholders across the higher education sector to take up a sectorial approach to the Minister of Higher Education to work towards a long-term solution to the funding crisis in the sector, she added.

The council acknowledged the influence of COVID-19 on the situation.

“UCT is deeply concerned about the crisis in the higher education sector, which has been compounded by the pandemic, as well as overall budget constraints.”

The UCT Council also noted concerns around the disturbing events unfolding at universities, continued IOL.

“Council extends its condolences to the family of Mthokozisi Ntumba for the tragic loss of his life during the events related to the student fees protests in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, earlier this week.”

Ngonyama added that Council reaffirmed the value of the right to protest – to do so lawfully and peacefully and without fear of reprisal, concluded IOL.

Read also: UCT students start occupation to protest financial exclusion

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