Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema has called on universities to re-open their 2018 applications for admission to accommodate matriculants who had not applied before President Jacob Zuma’s last year announcement introducing free tertiary education for the poor.
In an interview with Inside Education on Tuesday, Malema described the warning by Universities South Africa (USAF) that the institutions would not allow potential students to just walk in and try to register without having applied for admission as” irresponsible and playing with the lives of the poor.”
Malema said to show their commitment to free tertiary education for the poor the universities must make provision for those who had not applied for admission to do so online.
In its Christmas message the EFF had called on students who had not applied for admission on time to go to “their university of choice and demand to be registered.”
In a statement yesterday USAF said President Zuma’s announcement had come after the 2018 applications for admission had closed. This led to them deciding that there would be no walk-in applications during this year’s registration which is expected to start in two weeks.
Malema said his party is willing to assist by ensuring that its members were available on all the campuses to assist applicants who do not have access to online facilities or are not familiar with using computers.
“We have always assisted walk-in applicants at places like the University of Johannesburg and we are available to work with the various universities to ensure that poor students who want to access free tertiary education do so. We are committed to ensuring that 2018 does indeed become the year of free tertiary education for the poor.”
Malema said there were thousands of matriculants who might not have applied for university admission simply because they could not afford to go university. There were also those who did not apply because “they did not have the confidence that they would pass.”
“It is therefore irresponsible of the universities to come out and say they would not give these learners an opportunity to fullfil their dreams of becoming graduates in their fields of choice.”
Higher education minister Hlengiwe Mkhize told Inside Education on Tuesday, that universities should always make sure that they give opportunities to any young person who qualified an opportunity to access higher education.
“Our experience is that universities do have provision for those who have not applied in time but do qualify to do so on the specific university’s website and therefore any statement to the contrary by any university is problematic” she said.
The Minister, however, said she found any call for students who had not applied for admission to rock up at universities and demand to be registered is irresponsible.
Yesterday Inside Education also asked the Treasury what measures it had in place to provide financial support for the expected increased number of registrations.
Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the department would announce the budget to finance the implementation of the free education plan during the February budget statement.