The South African Human Rights Commission is urging the government‚ institutions of higher learning and students to work “collaboratively” to ensure that eligible poor students are accommodated and the registration process is peaceful.
“Recalling several incidents that have taken place in the past‚ which resulted in violence‚ disruption of academic programmes‚ the destruction of property and intimidation of persons across a number of university campuses‚ the Commission wishes to highlight the importance of resolving disputes through peaceful means‚” the commission said in a statement.
“The Commission therefore urges all parties to work collaboratively to ensure that all poor students are accommodated and that the registration processes across all campuses take place in an inclusive and peaceful manner.”
It urged government to provide clarity on the implementation of the announced decision to provide free higher education as soon as possible to remove the “prevailing uncertainty”.
In December president Jacob Zuma announced a fee free policy for poor students in universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges (TVET) from 2018.
“It must be noted that the decision on free higher education does not increase the number of spaces that each institution of higher learning can afford to avail to students.
“Those institutions should therefore not be compelled‚ directly or indirectly‚ to admit more students than the number of learning spaces that each of them can make available to students.
“Overcrowding and stretching resources available at these institutions can have a negative impact on the very right of access to higher education that the country is trying to give poor students access to.”
The commission said it will avail itself to engage all stakeholders to “address concerns and mitigating potential instability“.