Newsdeck: Enough space in universities and TVETs to take in all matriculants, says Naledi Pandor


Newsdeck: Enough space in universities and TVETs to take in all matriculants, says Naledi Pandor

Published Date: 2019-01-11 | Source: DailyMaverick | Author: Nkateko Mabasa | Comments

Newsdeck: Enough space in universities and TVETs to take in all matriculants, says Naledi Pandor

In its second year, the free education programme promised to students, and to be phased in over five years, has quelled the #FeesMustFall movement and since taken strides to ensure easy access to higher education and training. However, the EFF Student Command continues its call for free registration and walk-ins, with threats of anarchy.

As the 2019 cohort of Grade 1s start school, a little over 400,000 students who have recently matriculated are trying to find their feet in the world of life after school.

For 172,043 of them, those who passed matric with a bachelor pass, that could mean furthering their studies through universities while 141,700 students who passed with a diploma pass could be knocking on the doors of TVET colleges.

But wherever they may find themselves, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor says they will find a space.

Responding to the EFF Student Command's (EFFSC) "unwarranted" calls encouraging university walk-ins and a call for scrapping of registration fees, Pandor said in a statement that 210,801 spaces are available to new students within the 26 public universities, with a further 322,438 spaces within TVET colleges for the 2019 academic year.

On Monday the EFFSC launched it's #SizofundaNgekani campaign and called on qualifying first-year students to walk into universities and TVET colleges to apply and register for free.

According to Peter Keetse, President of the EFFSC, the state has failed to fulfil its fees-free education phase-in plan during the previous year and students are still without results due to non-payment by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

And although most universities offer late applications online, the EFFSC contended that because of socio-economic conditions of many students, data and computers were not easily available to all of them and so they should present themselves physically at institutions.

Pandor called the calls for walk-ins and free registration as "irresponsible and dangerous" with the "potential to disrupt the system and deny deserving students their right to higher education and training".

She said the department had developed a Central Applications Clearing House (CACH) system to help students "facing challenges with getting a space" by recording information of prospective students and cutting the long queue process.

"The CACH mechanism is in place to advise any prospective student on possible options and assist them to find spaces still available within the PSET system," read the statement.

Responding to EFFSC's calls for a scrapping of registration fees, Department of Higher Education and Training, Lunga Ngqengelele, referred Daily Maverick to a statement that the department released late last year in which it committed to fully subsidised free higher education for students from poor and working-class families.

According to the statement, the department will continue with the "expanded financial aid scheme" phase-in programme that started in 2018 with first-time university entrants from families with a gross annual income of less than R350,000 per annum.

Furthermore, the department is well on its way of reaching it 45% increase mark on government subsidy granted to universities within the next five years. In 2018, the government subsidy increased by 14.6% and is planned to increase by 19.5% in 2019.

The department has also made provisions for the missing middle students who come from families earning between R350,000 to R600,000, through a "gap grant" that paid R2.6-billion in 2018 to cover fee increases, read the statement.

Universities, meanwhile, called on prospective students to follow the institutions' application processes.

"We have a no walk-in policy," said Herman Esterhizen, media relations officer at the University of Johannesburg.

After the 2012 stampede that resulted in the death of a student at their Bunting Road Campus, UJ has clamped down on walk-ins. As one of the few universities offering late applications online, UJ experiences large crowds of students who now seek space after receiving their matric results.

According to Esterhuizen, all students who come to the university are referred to the online application process or call-centre personnel who will assist those without computers.

And although Wits University does not offer late applications, it has also adopted a no walk-in policy, requesting all admitted students to register online.

"We opened for online registration yesterday," said Refilwe Mabula, Wits Communication Officer.

The universities indicated that they had contingency plans in place for potential disruptions but did not provide details. DM

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