Premium Journalist
2 minute read
15 Oct 2015
8:38 am

Wits students to continue protests on Thursday


Students at Wits University said Thursday protests sparked by the institution’s announcement that fees were being hiked would continue.

Wits University students protest at West Campus in Johannesburg, 14 October 2015, for the increasing of the upfront fee payments . Picture: Nigel Sibanda

However, university authorities said security had been beefed up at all gates and police had been called in to prevent disruptions of lectures, which were expected to resume Thursday morning.

Lectures were suspended Wednesday as students protested against the hike in fees.

Fee hike sparks furore at Wits (video)

Students and students leaders are up in arms at the prestigious Witwatersrand University over a proposed 10.5% increase in tuition fees, saying it was the university’s plan to exclude poor students. The protest followed another protest that disrupted learning at Wits Business School on Tuesday over demolition of a residential house to construct parking space for students.

Though the University’s communication manager Shirona Patel said the increase was in line with other South African institutions, students took it to social media saying the increase of fees discriminated against poor students. Former Student Representative Council (SRC) president Mcebo Dlamini said the increase was too much “for students who are even struggling to get sponsorship.

Imagine what will happen to students who work in restaurant or part-time to fund their studies. The 10.5% is just too much and no one will be able to raise so much” SRC president Shareera Kalla also said there was an upward trend in fees at all universities across the country but government assistance in terms of student financial aid was not increasing and that would cause a financial strain, as most students depending on it.

“The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was not increasing at the same rate as the fees at Wits” Kalla said the proposed fee increases was not justifiable.

“When will Wits stop excluding poor students with their exorbitant fees?”

The protest saw the university suspend all lectures and academic activity, saying it was in the interests of protecting the safety and security of staff and students. Groups of students and student leaders had initially prevented staff and students from entering campus and disrupted some academic activities in the morning.

Patel said cancelling all academic activity for a day was “the most prudent route to manage the situation and to ensure the safety and security of all staff and students”. She added that the protest violated the protest policy of the University and Wits’ student rules and “while the University recognises that students have a right to protest, this cannot happen at the expense of the rights of students and staff members to learn and work in a safe environment”.

Patel said that the university would take the necessary action in line with its policies and procedures to create an environment that allowed teaching and learning to continue.