Every year, the cost of studying at a South African university is becoming unbearable for students.
According to data from financial services group, Old Mutual, university students in South Africa will fork out an average of 3000 US dollars in 2023.
In the past week, students from the University of Witwatersrand shut down the campus in protest over the exclusion of students who cannot afford to register for the new academic year and payoff debt.
One of the student leaders says their demanding that the university does not leave academically deserving students stranded.
Lungile Magagula, Wits University Student Forum Interim Chairperson said financial exclusion is not a valid reason to bar students from starting the new academic year.
“The problem here is that students are not able to register due to financial reasons. Most students who are unable to register are academically deserving to register but they are unable to because of financial reasons. And that is one of our major demands,” said Magagula.
Last week, students at Wits University were seen sleeping in public places due to delays in securing financial aid for accommodation.
Onkokame Seepamore, a final year BA Law student expresses concern that financial aid for accommodation continues to be a struggle every year.
“At the current moment, I don’t have funding and I am appealing for financial aid. For the past years, it was okay but this year it became a struggle because I didn’t have funding at all. I had problems getting accommodation and registering.” said Seepamore.
Jabulile Mbanjwa, Bachelor of Laws (LLB) student recalls repeatedly applying for bursaries but with no luck.
“I studied a BA Law and I am doing the two postgraduate LLB and because financial aid has defunded the two year and three year stream of LLB I am stuck without funding. I was fortunate to register but I don’t know how I am going to cover my fees and I was not able to get accommodation because I don’t have financial aid. “ recalls Mbanjwa.
Seven years ago, Fees Must Fall protests erupted on campuses throughout South Africa. Students were calling for free and quality tertiary education. Lungile says this is the perfect time to put pressure on the government to provide free education.
“It is time for us to consider free education. These are issues that emanate from us not having free education. It is time for the government and universities to work together in order to consider free education“, demands Magagula.
At this point, students and management of Wits University are still locked in negotiations.
On the ground, students are hoping that a mutual solution will come sooner rather than later.