Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa and higher education minister Blade Nzimande to withdraw the order that the University of SA (Unisa) should reduce its number of first-time students this year by 20,000.
Madonsela’s plea comes after Nzimande, last month ordered Unisa to reduce its intake of first-time students, saying it had over-enrolled by about 20,000 last year.
Madonsela said the move to deregister students could lead to disruptions by “angry students”.
“Please withdraw the order to Unisa to deregister 20,000 first-year students this year. As unemployment and poverty explode, we do not want angry young people seething over stolen dreams,” said Madonsela.
Madonsela’s ThuMa Foundation echoed her request, saying, “27 years into democracy, not enough universities have been built or allowed. Access to Unisa is important for social justice”.
Unisa initially had an intake of 57,857 first-time students for this year, but this has been culled to 37,857.
According to Nzimande, part of the reason for the call was that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would not be able to meet the demand for payouts for first time students.
“This over-enrolment will have a significant impact on the sustainability of NSFAS and the higher education sector as a whole,” he said.
Nzimande said the university was warned about over-enrolling before.
“When Unisa over-enrolled in 2018, the university was warned it must adhere to its enrolment planning target and that it would be penalised for the over-enrolment,” he said.
Former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee and the UDM slammed Nzimande for the move, saying he was the “antithesis of everything the late politician Chris Hani fought and lived for”.
“All professors from other African countries teaching at the University of Cape Town, Wits University, the University of Pretoria and University of KwaZulu-Natal would tell you they are products of over-enrolment by 500%. They are the best in the world and even the First World universities need them,” said Gardee.
“Minister Nzimande, instead of bulldozing and being a dictator who lacks substance, should be channelling funds and resources to support Unisa in their effort to accommodate more students,” said the UDM.
On social media, many prayed that Madonsela’s plea does not fall on deaf ears and that the order is reversed.
Here are some of the reactions:
By Unathi Nkanjeni – TimesLIVE