UKZN registration impasse resolved, SRC contributes R4m to pay historical debt

University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses have been plagued by student protests in the past month.
University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses have been plagued by student protests in the past month.

Registration at the embattled University of KwaZulu-Natal is expected to continue uninterrupted after a resolution was reached regarding the clearing of historical debt for returning students.

According to a statement released by KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala's office on Friday, a resolution was found after education MEC Kwazi Mshengu met university managers, led by vice-chancellor Prof Nana Poku, the student representative council  (SRC), the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and the UKZN convocation committee.

Mshengu was assigned to chair the task team, set up by Zikalala last week in a bid to find a solution to the various issues.

The university has been plagued by unrest over the past three weeks as returning students demanded the clearing of historical debt.

Zikalala urged students to desist from expressing their frustrations by protesting and damaging university property and rather opting for dialogue to resolve problems.

Some of the decisions taken at the meeting between Mshengu, the university and student formations included that:

  • All students who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the 2020 academic year but still owe the university will be cleared for registration.
  • A small team consisting of the UKZN convocation president, the SRC, Nana or his delegate and a member of the office of the premier be established to determine the number of unfunded students whose family income falls within the threshold of R350,000 and below, how many of these students have honoured the acknowledgement of debt and how many have defaulted.
  • The team to check the merits or demerits of each case; determine and advise on what is practical and financially feasible to assist students; draft a cost analysis to determine the amount of money required to assist affected students; and develop criteria to prioritise the different ways to provide financial assistance to affected students. 
  • To investigate cases of students who owe the institution but are in their last year of study. 
  • Students from families with a combined annual income of more than R350,000 be required to pay at least 15% of their debt but such be capped at R10,000 for tuition only and at R15,000 if a student is registering for accommodation as well.
  • Process of registration be allowed to unfold so that all spaces in student accommodation are occupied and a need for additional accommodation will then be determined once the numbers have been collated.

The provincial government praised the SRC and convocation for their contributions of R4m and R1m, respectively.

SCR president Sifiso Simelane was not immediately available to comment on where the R4m came from. 

On Monday Duduzane Zuma reportedly said he planned to offer financial aid to students on a video that was circulated widely on social media platforms. 

"We will sit down, I will come to you," Zuma said in the video. 

Despite numerous attempts, TimesLIVE was unable to reach Zuma to confirm whether he would provide financial assistance for students with historical debt.

However Simelane said on Wednesday that he had been speaking to people in Zuma's office. 

“Duduzane confirmed he will help UKZN students in whatever way possible. One of the needs of students is financial assistance," said Simelane.