Wits students divided over restarting of classes

2015-10-26 18:55
Adam Habib (Adam Areff, News24)

Adam Habib (Adam Areff, News24)

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Johannesburg - Cracks are starting to show in the united front presented by students at the University of Witwatersrand, with students divided over when the academic programme should resume.

On Monday, some of the students held a short demonstration at the campus, stating that they wanted to head back to classes and write their final exams after President Jacob Zuma announced that tuition fees would not be hiked next year. 

However, not all the students were satisfied and some want the protest to continue until their other demands are met. 

Some of their demands included a free education for all and an end to the outsourcing of staff and services. 

It was understood that more than 4 000 students had signed a petition, calling for the university's academic activities to continue. 

On its official Twitter communication page, @Wits_News, the institution tweeted that classes would not resume on Tuesday. There was also no date for when the academic programme would resume.

It was unclear whether the page is run by the student representative council or university management. 

Earlier, university management stated it wanted classes to resume on Tuesday. The senior executive team of the institution had earlier met to discuss a way forward. 

However, their meeting was adjourned earlier without resolution. 

Wits Vice Chancellor Adam Habib later released a statement in which he said management had committed themselves to implementing several measures to get the academic programme back on track.

In the statement, Habib announced a nine-point plan aimed at seeing academic activities returned to normal. 

The plan

The plan stated: 

1. There will be no increase in fees. This means that academic, residence and any other fees will not be increased. The Presidency has agreed to underwrite the cost of this, provided that the university makes some contribution.

2. The university is prepared to address the increase in the upfront fee payment.

3. The university recognises that the protests have adversely affected the ability of students to write their examinations. It therefore commits to restructuring the academic programme and examination timetable.

4. We recognise that outsourcing is an exploitative practice. The university commits to establishing its own internal commission. This is in addition to the president’s commission. The internal commission will be chaired by the chairperson of council and will comprise the chairperson of Finco and representatives from all stakeholders, including students, unions and others. It may also include an independent expert. This commission will investigate the effects of outsourcing services on the university, the cost structures associated with insourcing and possible alternative models. 

5. The university undertakes to find financial resources to support the children of all workers employed in currently outsourced services, provided that these children qualify for admission to the university.

6. There will be no disciplinary processes against students who were involved in legitimate forms of protest.

7. The university commits to drawing up a workers’ charter.

8. The university agrees, in principle, to make every effort to resolve any other outstanding issue that the students may want to address in good faith.

9. Should the students agree to these measures, the university will commit to calling a general assembly.

It was understood that the general assembly would sit on Tuesday.

Following the postponement of the senate meeting, Habib joined students in the Senate House where they voiced their concerns. 

The students were also expected to gather for a meeting on campus later on Monday night. 

While Monday's demonstrations took place peacefully at the campus, earlier two tyres were burnt close to Senate House.

Security officials quickly put the fire out.  It was unclear who was responsible for the incident. 

Read more on:    wits university  |  adam habib  |  johannesburg  |  university fees

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