USAf CEO Bawa: Writing off historical student debt not on the cards

Universities across the country resumed classes this week but many students impacted by the debilitating pandemic are now caught in a debt trap.

FILE: Students outside Parliament want government to respond to their call for amnesty for those arrested during the Fees Must Fall protests. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Universities South Africa (USAf) CEO professor Ahmed Bawa on Tuesday said writing off students' historic debt was simply not on the cards.

Universities across the country resumed classes this week but many students impacted by the debilitating pandemic are now caught in a debt trap.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse students at Wits University on Tuesday.

They were demonstrating over the financial exclusion of some students.

They want Wits University to allow students to register for the 2021 academic year regardless of the amount they owe in historical debt.

However, Bawa said individual institutions couldn't give in to this demand.

“Historical student debt at universities sits at around R10 billion. It’s almost impossible to contemplate writing off this debt, especially if there isn’t going to be any support from the state to the universities.”

Wits SRC president Mpendulo Mfeka said many students were being set up for failure with most lectures being held online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mfeka said the situation was desperate and students needed to stand together: “You expect someone who was studying in a shack or rural area to go back home because of financial needs. You are taking away the hard work [they've put in so far] because there are people who literally work hard.”

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