The standing SRC and Wits Student Forum (SF) had their second “student parliament” meeting on Tuesday to give a progress report to students.
The gathering of some of the executive of the SRC, members of the different school councils, and the students that both groups represent, in a freezing cold Umthombo lecture room, was unusual for at least for two reasons:
The turn out hasn’t been good
One was for the conspicuousness of students, which was hard to ignore and was duly lamented by SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa, pointing out that despite advertising the event on twitter and via posters all over campus the turn out remained disappointing.
Mgudlwa explained that the SRC was required by its own constitution to hold at least two mass meetings, of at least 500 students, during its term in office. “The turn out hasn’t been good, it’s because of that demon called student apathy that must be arrested,” Mgudlwa said addressing an audience of a little more than 20.
The importance of university politics has increased according to Richard Calland, City Press columnist and author of The Zuma Years: South Africa’s Changing Faces of Power. This sentiment, however, seems to be lost on a majority of Witsies under two weeks to 2013 SRC elections.
Holding SRC accountable
A second “unusual” thing, which seemed like an attempt to mitigate the first, was that the parliament had been opened up to ordinary students and the media, something that was not standard practice. Student Forum, according to member Angeliki Vidalis, exists to “hold the SRC accountable” in terms of the SRC constitution.
“[We’re] allowed to be in direct communication with the SRC… Students can approach Forum if they have issues [with the SRC],” said Vidalis, who is running in this year’s elections under the banner of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).
In his address, Mgudlwa highlighted the current SRC’s successes. A major one of those was in running financial battles with the university on a number of fronts. He said his office played a big role in convincing Finco to permit international students not to have to pay their entire fees upfront. Another success was next year’s implementation of “tier system” for the payment registration fees.
Mgudlwa said the system would charge student’s a registration fee according to the amount of money they earned, with those earning less paying less and being allowed to pay it in instalments. Another coup Mgudlwa was proud to trumpet was the initiation of busses to ferry students in the evenings to Park Station, Bree and Noord taxi ranks, as well as to non-university residences around Braamfontein.
[pullquote]that demon called student apathy that must be arrested[/pullquote]
Members of the various student councils who made up most of the numbers at the meeting were unanimous in their complaints, mainly that head of schools did not take them seriously and that the fees charged by Wits for supplementary exams was too high.
Mgudlwa said the SRC had fougt very hard to get the student councils recognised. On supplementary exams, Mgudlwa said “supp fees will not get changed if [only] two SRC members raised the issue every time”.