Anguish as universities turn students away

2018-01-14 06:03

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Becoming the first member of her family to get the chance to go to university is in itself a huge achievement for Xoliswa Dube (18).

She was accepted at Wits University in Johannesburg to study towards a BSc degree this year.

The daughter of a cleaner matriculated from Thuto-Lesedi Secondary school in Vosloorus. She defied the odds by scoring 79% for English, 83% for life orientation, 73% for maths, 69% for isiZulu, 65% for physical science, 67% for life science and 72% for computer applications technology.

“I’m excited that my dream has come true. I passed matric and am now going to study computer science at Wits. I’m going to study very hard so I can support my family when I’ve graduated and am employed. I want to change the situation at home,” she said.

Dube was not one of those who queued outside university and college campuses this week, hoping for a last-minute shot at a tertiary education and, ultimately, a better life.

With a place secured, she was this week applying to the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust for a bursary. In addition, she wanted to benefit from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which will disburse funds as part of the fee-free higher education offer announced by President Jacob Zuma for children of the poor and working class.

Zuma’s surprise move spurred on pupils who had done well in matric to form long queues outside universities and colleges this week, hoping to get a place. Opposite the University of Johannesburg (UJ), students hoping to secure last-minute places were helped on Wednesday, despite university banners stating that no walk-in applications were allowed.

Police vehicles were parked outside UJ, Wits University and the Pretoria campus of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), where armed security guards were on patrol.

Even some students who had applied last year were standing in line. One of them, Lindokuhle Madi (19) from Pretoria, said she had applied for an information technology and marketing national diploma at TUT last year, but had yet to receive confirmation about whether she had been accepted. Madi was among hundreds of students lining up outside TUT when a university official told them that the registration system had crashed. Students demanded their applications be processed manually.

Madi told City Press she wanted to study so that she could make an “honest living”.

“We were here since the morning and, by the look of things, we will go home without having been assisted. I applied last year and waited. When I came here with others in my situation, they were not paying attention to any of us. They say applications are being processed and we should check our status online, but it is not changing,” she said.

In the same boat was Nthabiseng Mehale (19) from Ekurhuleni. She applied to study office management and technology, or human resources management, at TUT.

“I came here last year to apply. They told me to go back home to apply online. I did that. I’ve been waiting for six months for my status to be updated. It’s still pending. I came here to check if I’ve been accepted. I’m running out of options.”

University student hopefuls were not the only ones struggling.

Keorapetse Lecogo (23) from Mahikeng, North West, was turned away from Central Johannesburg TVET College because he didn’t get the required 50% for maths and physical science to enrol for a civil engineering national certificate. He was desperate for staff to provide him with other options. He decided to enrol at a college in Gauteng, saying those in North West were continuously in turmoil.

“The reason I came here was I needed help, but I did not find any assistance, or at least options for me. I need to do something about my life. I don’t want to be another unemployed young person. TVETs in North West have abandoned us. But if I am treated this way here, I don’t know where to go and what to do,” Lecogo said.

Too many students, too few spaces

Universities dealt differently with walk-ins and last-minute applications this week.

University of KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Normah Zondo said there were 8 776 spaces available for first-year students last year. By the end of November, 4 885 of these had been filled.

Zondo said walk-in applications were received from January 2. Only a few spaces were available in some programmes, however, priority would be given to those who had already applied, but had changed their minds and wanted to study a different course.

Students were directed to the Westville, Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses.

Zondo said contingency plans were in place to prevent and manage any disruptions. University security personnel were on high alert and police were on standby.

This followed the Economic Freedom Fighters’ call, made after Zuma’s announcement, for young people to flood universities to claim their places.

University of Cape Town spokesperson Nombuso Shabalala said 4 200 spaces were available for first-year students this year. She said a total of 68 335 applications were received.

“We are certain that we will not have any further capacity as the take up on the study offers made will fill all the available places.”

Shabalala said walk-ins were allowed, but students would be helped to apply through the department of higher education’s central application clearing house.

University of Johannesburg registrar Professor Kinta Burger said 115 000 undergraduate applications were received for 10 500 first-year places. Burger encouraged prospective students to make use of the university’s online late enquiry system to see if and where there was still space available.

University of Fort Hare acting spokesperson Khotso Moabi said they had received 42 000 applications. The institution only had 2 444 first-year places. Of the applications received, more than 8 000 qualified for admission.

“The university has resolved to only consider walk-in applicants in the programmes where the quotas might not be met,” he said.

North West University spokesperson Louis Jacobs said there were spaces for just more than 9 200 first years. They received 40 000 applications and the university would not allow any walk-ins. There were contingency plans in place to deal with “various situations” and ensure the safety of staff, students and property, he said.

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said they received nearly 32 000 applications, of which 18 000 were complete and could be considered for this year’s intake.

The university had 5 000 places for new first-year students, but had provisionally admitted about 10 000 first years. This was to make provision for those matriculants who did not meet admission criteria after their final matric results became available, or who chose to study at another institution and did not take up their places at Stellenbosch University.

The university was also not allowing walk-in applications, but it would make computers available for students to apply through the department’s clearing house, Viljoen said.

However, first-year students who had been provisionally accepted at the university and met the requirements would not be turned away if they decided to register, even if there were more than 5 000 of them.

Free State University spokesperson Lacea Loader said they could accommodate 8 000 first-year students and would allow walk-ins for students who meet requirements. Students would also receive assistance with applying online for programmes that still had space available.

Read more on:    education

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