#FeesMustFall protests: Three universities shut down on-site registrations

Students are protesting at Wits University, the University of Johannesburg and Unisa.

Wits Fees Must Fall members protested on 11 January 2016 as first years queued around them for registration. Picture: EWN/Govan Whittles.

JOHANNESBURG - With at least three universities shutting down on-site registration today, there are calls for students to be given assistance with upfront payments.

The Fees Must Fall protests have started with the suspension of physical registration at Wits University, protests over an online policy at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and an attempted shut down of the University of South Africa (Unisa) main campus in Pretoria.

LISTEN: Registration halted at Wits.

The Pan Africanist Youth Congress (Payco)'s Ndiyakholwa Ngqulu says a number of issues have not yet been resolved.

"There must be no registration fee, no increase in the fees, the debt from 2013 to 2015 must be cleared and students must be given their qualifications."

The Democratic Alliances (DA) shadow minister for higher education Belinda Bozzoli says today's protests are just the first of many to come.

"We are calling for a proper rethink of funding for higher education, which is very much overdue. Their statistics show that they are R51 billion short and that's for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) alone."

WATCH: #FeesMustFall reloaded.

Meanwhile, the Higher Education Department says one of the factors that a soon-to-be-appointed presidential commission will address, is the challenge of students who don't qualify for government funding, but can't afford to pay their own fees.

This group of students, known as 'the missing middle', is partly why the #FeesMustFall campaign has resumed today.

Protesting students say those who are poor, but ineligible for funding, are further disadvantaged by upfront fee payments.

Minister Blade Nzimande says the criteria set by NSFAS to grant funding will be looked into as it contributes to the existence of the missing middle.

"The NSFAS means test is too low. There are students who don't qualify for NSFAS, yet they come from families where they can't afford university education. That is going to be looked at."

They say the fee requirement is equivalent to academic exclusion as it disadvantages those without funding.

FUNDING INCREASED

More than 400,000 students will receive funding from the NSFAS for the 2016 academic year.

In addition to R10 billion in loans and bursaries made available by NSFAS, government has also committed a further R6.9 billion to support students.

Nzimande held a briefing in Pretoria where he had outlined the various options available to students as a new group enters the tertiary education system.

Click here to watch EWN's the year of the student feature.