'We won't back down' - Wits students

By Drum Digital
15 October 2015

The protest at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) over fee increases has entered its second day with students saying they were not willing to back down.

Wits student representatives' council (SRC) secretary general Fasiha Hassan said the university "did not understand" the experiences and struggles of most of its students.

"We are not willing to back down until we are heard. The university system is not set up for most students to succeed. Some of them can barely afford accommodation - they usually sleep in libraries or bathrooms," she said.

"If they are going to increase fees now at such an exorbitant amount, we are going to have a financial crisis. Access to higher education cannot be closed for the poor. "We have closed the gates and people think it is for fun, but we are basically saying the doors to higher education will be closed if such [increases] persist."

Second-year bachelor of health science student Thabiso Mampa agreed.

"Every year is a struggle to pay for fees. [The National Student Financial Aid Scheme] can barely cover my fees and my mother is struggling because she has to take loans. Some of us might not come back next year, because of lack of fees."While some students sang and danced in an effort to be heard, others simply looked on, saying although they supported the protest, they could not afford to miss important lectures.

Meanwhile, Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said only two lectures were disrupted on Thursday. The institution was also working on clearing campus entrances.

"We have consulted with the [South African Police Service] on our respective roles and they have agreed to manage the parameter security. They will assist the university in allowing students, staff and visitors to move freely on and off our campuses," she said. Classes and academic activities at the institution were suspended on Wednesday following the protest. There was also an altercation and vandalism at the Wits Business School.

Wits chief financial officer Linda Jarvis said key reasons for the fee hike were the increase in the cost of library books, journals and research equipment; making provisions for salary increases for academics to ensure they retained critical talent and inflation.Following "extensive consultations with the SRC and other university structures", Wits reduced the average 2016 tuition fee from 11% to 10.5% with the upfront fee increase also reduced to 6% from 10%.

Source: News 24

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