MATRIC pupils planning to study at university next year are losing hope as institutions, grappling with #FeesMustFall protests, have not responded to all applicants yet. While some high school pupils have made alternative arrangements because they have not heard back from universities, others fear they may end up spending a year at home.
Alison Sickle, a matric teacher at Rocklands High School in Mitchells Plain, said: “Some pupils applied to study at university but quite a few also said they are not going to apply. “I told them to apply because you need a plan A and plan B. You need options.” Sickle said pupils were facing pressure with their final exam and an uncertain future added to their woes. “The protests have demotivated our learners who can’t get answers from universities about their applications,” she said.
“They’re spending money to go to the universities to find out what’s happening. It has a psychological effect on learners. They’re writing the most important exam and they don’t know if there will be answers about next year. We need to motivate them all the time.”
Tarin-Lee Hans, a matric teacher at Groenvlei High School in Lansdowne, said about half of the pupils at the school had applied to universities. “We told the pupils about all their options, including colleges and learnerships. There are other alternatives as well,” she said.
Teachers and pupils at various schools mostly supported calls for a decrease in university fees but condemned violence.
Teachers and pupils at various schools mostly supported calls for a decrease in university fees but condemned violence. Hans said: “The #FeesMustFall protest is a good cause and there is a need to subsidise people who can’t afford to study. But the protest is not right when our learners can’t study next year. “I spent most of my years studying at UWC. It’s sad to see students are burning the place down. The medical building is now being destroyed and students need that technology.”
Universities, meanwhile, have either postponed end-of-year student exams until next year or found alternative, secure exam venues so students can write exams and graduate next year. Lauren Kansley, spokeswoman for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said it was also swamped with new applications. “Processing of applications is taking place at off-site locations. The procedure is severely delayed but we continue to work through the backlog,” she said. Kansley could not confirm whether CPUT has seen a decrease in student applications this year due to protests. “We have not captured all applications yet so it is difficult to say,” she said.
Luthando Tyhalibongo, spokesman for the University of the Western Cape, said protests had not had much of an effect on their applications. “Our administration staff have continued with their duties,” he said. “We had a look at our applications and the trend is very much the same as last year. The protests have not had a significant impact on our applications.”
Various institutions have meanwhile written off student debt, one of the primary protest demands, and the national Treasury this week committed R8 billion towards paying for poor student’s fees.
Kansley said CPUT had written off R111 million in student debt. Tyhalibongo said UWC was unable to write off its R283m in student debt “without financial support from government”. Martin Viljoen, spokesman for Stellenbosch University, said it would only be able to confirm its student debt next year. “Unfortunately the university is not in a position to comment on this issue as we do not have the information yet. “The financial year ends on 31 December and the 2017 budget is considered by council at the end of November,” said Viljoen. “All expenses will be reported on in the annual review.”
Protests have cost universities millions as 18 universities countrywide reported violence totalling almost R460m between October last year and May.
A number of students in the Western Cape have been arrested and some suspended from classes. Twenty-five UWC students were released on bail this week after being arrested for public violence. They will appear in court next month.
Yazeed Kamaldien is a South African journalist and photographer.
This article appeared on iol.co.za on 29 October 2016