Wits University mandatory vaccines

The Great Hall of Wits on East Campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Samuel Molepo

Wits University students block roads in debt protest

Wits University students ensured that despite lockdown there would still be traditional protests to kick off the 2021 academic year.

Wits University mandatory vaccines

The Great Hall of Wits on East Campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Samuel Molepo

What would the start of an academic year be in South Africa without violent student protests? Wits university students ensured despite the Covid-19 Lockdown Alert Level 1, that there would be the usual protests to kick of the 2021 academic year.

Students protested allegedly over registration and historical debt issues in Yale Road and Empire Road, on Tuesday, effectively blocking staff access to the Wits university campus. The Students Representative Council tweeted that that protest was about registration issues.

Wits University spokesperson, Shirona Patel, told The South African that the group of protestors had forced the university to direct staff to alternative entrances to get to work.

“The protestors then made their way to Park Town where they blocked a road leading to the hospital. The police dispersed these protestors and about 30 of them made their way back to Braamfontein. My understanding is some of the issues raised are issues around NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme), historical debt of students and student wanting all students to register regardless of how much they owe the university,” Patel said. 

Patel said Wits University management had been in discussion with the SRC over the past two to three weeks at various meetings. 

“The university has made various concessions including committing R10 million to a Wits hardship fund and another R10 million to the Wits Covid-19 relief fund. This is to assist students who are experiencing hardship and whose families have been impacted by Covid-19. And this is to assist these students who qualify with the ability to register,” she said.

She said Wits University had already registered more than 95% of its students, and the majority who still have to register are post graduate students who will register at intervals through out the year. 

Patel said Wits University had received approximately 1200 applications to the hardship fund, the majority of which had been approved. 

“We will welcome any additional funds from NSFAS, for all students, from the private sector and the public sector. Even though students may have been able to register there is still a need for funding all around,” she said.

She said Wits University had commenced its academic programme online on * March and an estimated 25 000 students had participating in online learning.  

“Wits has provided students with data, with devices and with access to a new learning management system to ensure that they can learn from home. We are hopeful that these issues will be resolved quickly. We are open and have extended multiple invitations to the SRC to continue our engagement on these matters,” Patel said.