The South African Students Congress (Sasco) has vowed to make tertiary institutions ungovernable if students who can’t pay for registration are turned away this year.
Sasco deputy president Luyanda Tenge said it was unacceptable that underprivileged students were being deprived of an education.
“We have been very clear – we will make these universities ungovernable if the managers don’t appreciate that free education was announced in this country.
“They think they are going to turn students away because they do not have money, but that is not going to happen.”
This was after a “large” number of students returning to the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and other institutions could not register this week due to unpaid fees, according to student organisations.
Yesterday, the Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) and Sasco said they were engaging with management at various institutions about registration fees and the financial exclusion of returning students, many of whom were on government financial aid.
Two students who spoke to The Citizen at Wits said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) had not paid their outstanding fees to the institution last year, resulting in them being instructed that they could not register to continue studying this year.
EFFSC president Peter Keetse said they were trying to convince government to make an announcement on free registration.
“We are engaging with management at all institutions on the question of walk-ins and the potential for free registration.
“We have written to the department of higher education and we did engage the deputy minister on the scrapping of registration fees, which is imminent but long overdue.
“We felt that this year was the year to finally put this issue to rest.”
The EFFSC was also trying to negotiate with institutions which did not allow walk-ins by students who had not applied on time, including the University of Johannesburg (UJ).
According to UJ, registration of new and returning students proceeded without any incidents.
By lunchtime yesterday, just more than 36 hours after the online registration process went live on Monday, more than 3 000 students had been registered and the numbers were growing hourly, said UJ registrar Professor Kinta Burger.
Nsfas had not responded to a request for comment at the time of going to press.