Wits suspends classes to protect students and staff

2015-10-14 17:04
(Picture: Wits)

(Picture: Wits)

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Johannesburg - All classes and academic activities at the University of the Witwatersrand were suspended on Wednesday following a protest over fee increases, the institution said.

The university said there was an altercation on Wednesday morning and some classes were vandalised at the Wits Business School.

It said it was suspending classes in order to protect staff and students.

"This is an unofficial protest and although everything is calm, Wits is cancelling all lectures and other academic activities for the day," spokesperson Shirona Patel said in a statement.

"We think that this is the most prudent route to manage the situation and to ensure the safety and security of all staff and students."

She said students and student leaders initially prevented staff and other students from entering the campus. They also disrupted academic activities.

Right to learn in safe environment

Patel said their actions violated the protest policy of the university and Wits student rules.

The university's executive management said in a statement that it recognised that students have a right to protest, but this could not happen at the expense of the rights of students and staff members to learn and work in a safe environment.

"The majority of our 32 500 students and 5 000 staff want to continue teaching, learning and preparing for the upcoming examinations," it said.

"It is unacceptable for the majority of our staff and students to be held ransom by a minority. We will take the necessary action in line with our policies and procedures to create an environment that allows teaching and learning to continue."

Why increases?

Earlier, the university's chief financial officer Linda Jarvis said in a statement that since the fee increases were released, her office had been inundated with requests for information regarding why increases were necessary.

She said some of the key reasons were the increase in the cost of library books, journals and research equipment, making provisions for salary increases for academics to ensure they retain critical talent and the inflation rate.

Jarvis said the subsidy increase from government was expected to come in at around 5%.

"The net effect is that we have to make up our income to cover our expenditure in order to remain sustainable.

"If we do not do so, we put the quality of our academic project at risk."

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%.

Read more on:    wits university  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  university fees

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