Wits University has announced that it will not suspend its academic program on Friday despite the threat of another volatile student protest. Police were called in on Thursday after dozens of students protested at the Great Hall on the University’s Johannesburg campus, disrupting classes and blocking roads with debris as reported by The Citizen.
The students are demanding that the University allow those owing R150,000 or less to register for the 2023 academic year, among other demands.
Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel confirmed that the institution had suspended several students and that its legal office is gathering evidence to identify perpetrators who will be charged. Patel stated that the University would ensure that the academic program continued despite the ongoing protests and added that Wits had already engaged with external service providers on the issue of student accommodation.
Patel confirmed that the University could not meet all the demands of the protesting students, including historical debt. Investigations conducted by Wits found that many of the students on the SRC’s list for exemption had failed courses and programs for multiple years and had accumulated large amounts of debt.
Other student demands included:
- Waiving the R10,000 upfront fee to secure accommodation placement.
- Allowing students to settle into their residences.
- Adding R30 million towards an accommodation fund to secure more beds for homeless students.
- Scrapping the NSFAS R45,000 cap for residences.
Patel stated that the University had committed over R150 million in scholarships and bursaries and put R28 million towards the Wits Hardship Fund to enable students who could not afford the criteria to register and secure emergency accommodation. Additionally, Wits had matched the SRC’s R6 million raised through fundraising with its own R6 million, effectively putting forward R190 million to support students and help them to register.
Photo by Amine M’siouri