03/01/2018 07:20 SAST | Updated 03/01/2018 07:20 SAST

EFF: Universities Must Not Turn Away Walk-Ins

The EFF says universities are using "bureaucratic impediments" as an excuse to turn away students.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
EFF leader Julius Malema addresses his supporters outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria; November 2, 2017.

The EFF has called on academically deserving students to report to universities during registration this year, as universities should not use "bureaucratic impediments" to turn them away, News24 reported.

"The country must be firm with university managers, that they must not close the doors of learning now, using useless bureaucratic impediments when funding, which has been the greatest historic impediment, has been removed," the party reportedly said.

On Tuesday, Universities South Africa (USAF) warned that no walk-ins would be allowed to register. This followed President Jacob Zuma's announcement at the ANC's national conference in December that higher education would be free for poor students.

USAF, which represents all universities, met to decide how to implement Zuma's shock announcement.

"Much to our dismay, we discovered at that meeting that government's decision to implement the new system was a fait accompli [already decided upon].

"Our task, then, as universities, was to work on how to implement the new NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] provisions in ways that are more effective to students," said USAF in a statement.

"One of the decisions out of that meeting was that since new applications had closed in 2017 at all 26 universities, no walk-in applications would be accepted."

But according to News24, the EFF said that this was not acceptable, as universities should be finding a way to give these students access to higher education instead of shutting them out: "Universities should be working towards giving expression to the idea, by making provisions for all who did not apply because they did not have money to get a chance to apply and be considered."

The EFF had previously called for academically deserving students to report to universities when they open, a call USAF professor Ahmed Bawa has described as reckless.

According to News24, Bawa previously warned that free education should not be used as a political football: "This is unfortunate, as it may result in a replay of events with potential to cause injury to students and their families."

Bawa's concerns were echoed across social media on Wednesday.

An eNCA report quoted higher education minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, who said it was unlikely that students would simply arrive at universities hoping to be admitted.

She too added that the EFF's stance was "reckless".