Wits SRC vows to shut down main campus over student debt and accommodation

2019-02-04 15:50
(Gallo images/Getty images)

(Gallo images/Getty images)

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The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the Witwatersrand has vowed to shut down all academic activities at the institution until its demands relating to accommodation and registration are met. 

They are also calling for the university's Hardship Fund to be brought back.  

Students took to the streets of Braamfontein and disrupted classes on Monday, demonstrating against the call by the university not to allow students who owed the university R100 000 or less to register for the 2019 academic year.

"Students are unable to register because of their historical debts. We are going to shut down this entire week until they (university) houses students and allows them to register," SRC president Sisanda Aluta Mbolekwa said.

Mbolekwa said there was also not enough accommodation for students, which left many of them without a roof over their heads.  

She said they had engaged with the university's management and they had understood that students who owed R100 000 or less would be allowed back, but that the institution had reneged on that agreement.

However, the university said that claims that an agreement had been reached were not true.

"As per the Council-approved concessions for 2019 below, only students who owe the University R10 000 or less will be allowed to roll over their debt and to register this year," Vice Chancellor Andrew Crouch said in an email to students, which News24 has seen.

According to the university, students who owed R10 000 or less from 2018 would be able to roll over the debt and register in 2019.

Crouch also states in the email that students would also be required to sign an acknowledgement of debt and make arrangements with the university to pay it off.

Among other concessions which were approved by the council for the 2019 academic year was that students made an upfront payment of R9 340 towards their fees before enrolment, Crouch said in his email.

"NSFAS students are not required to pay upfront," Crouch wrote.

Meanwhile, the EFF Students Command has threatened to take matters in to their own hands if the university fails to address residence backlogs and student funding challenges. It said in a statement that several students have not been able to register as a result of large amounts of historical debts and a lack of government funding for first-year students.

Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel told News24 that representatives of the senior executive team were working with the SRC to resolve their concerns. 

"The university respects the rights of students to raise their concerns and has created official channels of communication for these matters to be discussed. It is unacceptable for the academic programme to be disrupted," said Patel.

Patel said campus protection services were currently analysing video footage and were requesting staff and students to come forward to report incidents of intimidation and make statements.

"All incidents will be investigated and action will be taken, including immediate suspensions where appropriate, in line with the university’s rules, policies and procedures," she said.

Despite the SRC's planned shutdown, Patel said academic programmes would continue as planned. 

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