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Trying to register with Unisa is a ‘nightmare’, say many students

Trying to register with Unisa is a ‘nightmare’, say many students
The University Of South Africa building in Pretoria. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

University of South Africa students say they are struggling to register and battling to get support from the institution’s administration. There are reports of several obstacles standing in the way of students. Daily Maverick spent 31 minutes on the student call centre line, but there was no response.

‘After I tried to contact them several times, they finally got back to me after I posted a tweet. So I guess Twitter has a thing of getting organisations to respond faster than they traditionally would,” a post-graduate Sociology Honours student at the University of South Africa told Daily Maverick.

The student is among many learners who have struggled with the registration process this year. 

Unisa registration opened on 9 January. The academic year is set to begin this week, with orientation on 16 February. The student, who requested that her full identify be withheld from publication amid concerns of being harassed, completed her registration on the day it opened. She paid her fees and although Unisa confirmed having received payment, her proof of registration did not arrive. 

“I waited for my proof of registration, which didn’t come through. This frustrated me because I’d already selected the modules that I would be doing this year.

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“I tried to contact the faculty, via email, by phone… I was not getting through. I was not getting any response. So after a couple of days, I checked to see if the funds were in fact allocated, because I thought something might have gone wrong.”

Her instincts were spot-on. She discovered that her registration fees had been wrongly allocated to a matric exemption fund.

“I had absolutely no idea what that was. I was very confused. My understanding was that I was paying towards my registration and at this stage my modules had not yet been processed,” she said.

After being unable to speak to anyone at Unisa, she went onto Twitter and posted a tweet:

It was only after she tweeted that Unisa got back to her.

“They called me, but that call didn’t give me any comfort. It didn’t address the issue of the money that was allocated incorrectly.”

She then decided to travel to Unisa’s Pretoria campus, despite living some distance away in Lonehill. There, she was met by long queues and was sent from pillar to post by clueless campus officials. 

Eventually, her registration fees were correctly allocated to her account. However, she is still waiting for her proof of registration and, at the time of writing this, she had still not received it. That means she’s been waiting for almost a month.

“It’s not reflecting on the system, which is making me a bit nervous, especially since I’m still waiting for my course material. I’m really frustrated.”

Registration ‘going well’ — Unisa

In response to queries from Daily Maverick, Unisa said the registration process was “going well”.

Meanwhile, another student, who asked to remain anonymous, told us of her frustrations with the registration process. She is a second-year student and had difficulties registering on 11 January. The system continually indicated that her registration was “in progress”. She received no communication on whether her registration had been successful or instructions on how to pay her fees.

She sought assistance from Unisa’s administration but, as with Molete, was met with many obstacles.

“I emailed the BA department… I emailed some lecturers. I emailed, like, six times and only one lecturer responded to say what my second major was, and then there was nothing after that.”

When she tried calling Unisa, she waited 45 minutes for someone to answer. The call was cut before she could get any answers. When she tried calling again, the phone simply rang endlessly.

On 24 January – after two weeks of trying to communicate with the university – she went to Unisa’s Cape Town campus. There, campus officials seemed not to know what to do to help her.

Online portals crash

Eventually, she was taken to someone who helped her officially register and informed her where and how to make her payments. She noted that registration is not the only time that students are let down by Unisa’s online portals.

“They have so many problems because of their entire platform. Even while studying last year… sometimes it would just crash or not work at all. It really can’t handle all the students,” she said.

She expressed concern about Unisa students who aren’t able to drive to the various campuses to sort out their registration. Especially since many students are attracted to Unisa because the university boasts “open distance e-learning” which is designed so students do not have to be on campus and can be flexible in their studies.

Tebogo Mafanele Ngobeni is another Unisa student who told Daily Maverick about his struggles with registration this year. Ngobeni is a law student who was accepted to study in 2020, but due to financial constraints that were exacerbated by the pandemic, he is only able to complete his studies this year. While attempting to register, Ngobeni faced many obstacles.

“What should have been a simple exercise has turned into a nightmare. Unisa has locked me out and I can’t proceed beyond a certain screen that doesn’t offer any information explaining the reason for the lockout. 

“I’ve tried calling them incessantly (Pretoria, Benoni and Florida)… I have sent emails to addresses provided on their website, to the Law Faculty and the Registrar. No one answers their phones. Not a single email has been responded to,” he told us. 

Daily Maverick phoned Unisa’s student call centre and waited 31 minutes before giving up.

unisa registration

Like the others, Ngobeni was forced to go to the campus. His situation was not resolved and he remains locked out of the registration process.

While the university extended the registration period by a week, until 10 February, they did not confirm whether this was linked to the multitude of problems students were facing when trying to register.

The below is from a statement: 

“The University of South Africa (Unisa) wishes to encourage its stakeholders to familiarise themselves with Unisa application and registrations processes. […] Once a student is registered and has paid the required minimum fees, he/she would have immediate access to his/her study material online on our student portal (myUnisa).”

The statement claimed that registration processes were “going well”. 

The university has not responded to detailed questions about the long delays students are facing, the lack of communication from the institution and the various administrative problems students encounter. DM

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