The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is not participating in the current fees protests, #FMF2016, on campus.
“SRC is continuing with its normal governing procedures, which includes helping students with accommodation and planning for O- week,” said Mzwanele Ntshwanti, projects, media and campaigns officer of Wits SRC.
Students of the #WitsFMF movement have been protesting for fee free education since January 4. On Monday January 11, Wits management hired private security guards in riot gear to come patrol the main campus and to protect university property. Last week the department of higher education held a meeting in Tembisa with SRC from various campuses including Wits. Some student representatives walked out of the meeting.
Yesterday, Wits University and the Wits SRC issued a joint statement in response to the fees protests:
Management and SRC agreement
Wits University Management and the Wits Students’ Representative Council have reached agreement on a range of issues that are summarised here:
1. Free education: The University and the SRC commit to the realisation of free education as the ultimate goal for all students who qualify academically and who cannot afford it.
2. First payment: Students who cannot afford the first fee payment prior to enrolment/registration will still be allowed to register by filling in a form via the self-service portal (https://self-service.wits.ac.za).
a. There will be no interest on the first fee payment for those who have indicated that they cannot afford the first payment.
b. The University will provide the SRC with data on the number of students who have filled in the first payment form.
c. No student will be financially excluded during the academic year because they are unable to make their first payment.
3. Insourcing Task Team: The University agreed to more frequent reporting from the Insourcing Task Team. The next communique from the Insourcing Task Team will include information on the progress on the minimum wage demand. The University agreed that it was of utmost urgency for Council to make a decision between the proposed R4 500 and R5 000.
4. Funding for workers’ children: Workers’ children who have qualified for admission to the University and to residence will receive a full package, including tuition and accommodation.
5. General Assembly: The University commits to initiating, during the first block and upon the return of all students, the processes necessary for holding a General Assembly.
6. Safety and security: In securing and providing safety and security to the University community, police should not use undue force that violates any human rights. The University and students need to find a non-violent and amicable way of resolving issues.
7. Progression status: The University agrees that students will be able to know their progression status, regardless of whether they have outstanding debt. The University also agrees to advance students being able to view their progress report/unofficial transcript throughout the year, regardless of whether they have outstanding debt.
8. Food security: Student Affairs commits to working with the SRC on addressing the issue of food insecurity on campus. There is currently a University project to address food insecurity of which the SRC is a part.
9. NSFAS appeals: Outcomes of NSFAS appeals will be given immediately after each meeting of the appeals committee.
10. FASO: The University reaffirms the commitment that there should be accountability, efficiency and consistency within the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FASO). FASO is already undergoing a review process.
11. English: The University agrees to engage on the matter of students with good APS scores and exceptional marks being allowed to appeal.
12. Communication with prospective students: The University commits to communicating with prospective students who may have had difficulties with registering during the two days of registration shut-down.
13. Debt management: The University commits to providing the SRC with data to substantiate the need for state intervention on debt clearance for the missing middle.
a. All students who owe the University between R1 and R1 000 as at 31 December 2015 will be allowed to register in 2016. The outstanding debt for 2015 will be rolled over to 2016. The University estimates that this concession will benefit 3 607 students this year.
b. All students who can show that they are fully funded for 2016 will be allowed to register. They will have to sign an acknowledgement of debt for fees owed in 2015.
c. The University will work with the SRC to raise funds to clear the debt of approximately 1 284 students who owe the University between R1 001 and R5 000 (as at 31 December 2015). If this effort is successful, these students will then be allowed to register in 2016.
d. The SRC and the University will approach the provincial government to cover the debt of about 1 418 students who owe the University between R5 001 and R20 000 (as at 31 December 2015). If these efforts are successful, these students will be allowed to register for the 2016 academic year.
14. Residence fees and Food Security: Residence fees have not been increased, in line with the agreement on the zero percent fee increases. However, meal costs have increased.
The University will require about 24 hours to adjust its administrative processes to accommodate this agreement and we ask all students to be patient during this period.
Please bring any concerns or issues to the attention of the Registrar firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be addressed timeously.
We trust that these arrangements will go a long way towards enabling the majority of our students to register for 2016 without hindrance.
We thank all staff members and students for your patience during this difficult period.