The SRC Postgraduate and International Students Affairs office with University of Pretoria International (UPI) Student Society have raised concerns with the university. They argue that international students, some of whom are paying higher fees than local students, have not received aid from UP during the national lockdown. The petition requests that they be exempted from paying residence fees since they are not using the facilities, a fee adjustment of 20% to 25%, and no fee increment for international students for the 2021 to 2022 financial calendar.
They also request that UP forms a solidarity fund aimed at assisting international students with tuition credit, that UP designs a program that will assist international students who failed their 2020 academic year due to online learning, that UP allows owing students to reregister for the 2021 academic year, and for all international students to be able to access their academic transcripts and be able to peruse them despite not being up to date with tuition fee payments.
“…international students, some of whom are paying higher fees than local students, have not received aid from UP during the national lockdown.“
Chairperson of UPI, Elma Akob, highlighted that UP cannot assist students with data like they did with students in South Africa, even though data charges in countries like Zimbabwe and Eswatini can be up to five times more than in South Africa, which is a significant financial burden on international students. Akob mentions that their aim is not to take away from the challenges that local students are facing, but to speak up for international students who need assistance from UP. International students have been informed that they have to pay R470 (Africa) or R580 (rest of the world) to get graduation certificates couriered to them during this lockdown period.
On 23 July, the SRC released a memorandum stating that they have no control in letting international students back into the country and their residences. Under the current national state of disaster, in which the government has enforced border closures, international students who returned to their home countries during the lockdown will be permitted to return to campus only when level one of the national lockdown is announced. According to the memorandum, these international students will be supported through remote learning until they return. UP will also implement tailored catchup plans on their return.
“…data charges in countries like Zimbabwe and Eswatini can be up to five times more than in South Africa…“
The petition currently has over 380 signatures, with a goal of 1000. The organisers of the petition implore UP to be sensitive to the fact that students could not plan for this pandemic and ask that they be willing to apply change in their policies to ease the financial strain on international students and hope to receive assistance like NSFAS students.
Illustration: Giovanna Janos