The government must provide clarity on the implementation of the fee-free education President Jacob Zuma announced to remove the current uncertainty, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Tuesday.
"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 SAHRC 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."
Zuma announced on December 16 a plan for fee-free tertiary education for poor and academically deserving students.
He did not provide details on how it would work or where the money would come from.
No walk-in applications
In response, the EFF is lobbying for late university applications to be allowed for potential students who had not thought they would be able to afford to study.
Universities have made it clear that they will not take late walk-in applications, advising pupils who did better than expected in matric, or people who changed their minds and now want to go to university to register with the Department of Higher Education and Training instead.
The department is using the Central Applications Clearing House to help find places for late applicants, but many are still going to campuses to ask questions.
"Maths!" muttered many of those gathering at some of the tertiary institutions in the Western Cape.
"My daughter was hoping to study nursing. But, maths! She did not do so well, and now does not qualify for nursing," said a woman who travelled to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Bellville from the Eastern Cape to help state her daughter's case.
"I am hoping that they will let her do law instead," said the woman, standing in the sun in a queue of people.
'I just want to know'
Marjorie and Sakkie Philander from Uitsig waited in the queue at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology with their son Sachin, who has decided he wants to become a teacher. While he had not applied, he is hoping he has a chance.
Outside on the lawn, two women made a "Christmas bed" on the grass for a row of small children whose mothers were rushing off to fetch a form, or stand in a queue.
Many of those walking around the campuses were also desperate to hear whether they had secured a place so that they could activate other plans such as accommodation, or turn down an offer from another university.
"I just want to know," said Zanele Mbizela, who hopes to study either social work or public management after volunteering last year for Cape Town activists Ilitha Labantu, who campaign against violence against women.
Fifty-seven-year-old project manager Jannie Smuts from Saldanha wants to upgrade his skills, but encountered problems when trying to get his application in ahead of the cut-off date in September 2017, so he is trying again.
The University of Cape Town was relatively quiet, giving early arrivals an opportunity to explore the vast campus and its hundreds of steps before the rush.