‘Toothaches’ continue at Wits dental school as the senior executive team tries to get to the root of the problem.  

Dean of the health sciences faculty, Professor Shabir Madhi and Wits University vice-chancellor, Zeblon Vilakazi announced the immediate relocation of Wits Dental School on Wednesday, August 25, 2021.

This comes a week after the dean’s first meeting with the oral health science’s student body as reported by Wits Vuvuzela. Madhi said he received “indirect communication” on Monday, August 23, about the reassessment and renovations which are going to take place at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

The department of infrastructure and development (DID) will reassess and do maintenance which is expected to be completed by 2027. The renovation of blocks one and two which the school occupies should take between six to nine months to renovate. In the interim, the school will be relocated to the medical school campus.

No statement has yet been released by DID or Gauteng Department of Health regarding the matter.

The school of oral health sciences as well as the university have been under public scrutiny amid the circulation of the #SAVEWITSDENTAL posts on social media revealing the dire conditions students are required to learn under and perform practicals in.

Former chair of Dental Students Council (DSC), Nikheel Heera, recalls his realisation of the school’s terrible facilities after speaking to students at other institutions who were also doing dentistry. “It really hits home that [our] facilities were trash,” said Heera.

Dental students at the university pay about R 108 000 per year making it the most expensive degree in the country. Despite the dean’s response to transfer the responsibility of the upkeep of the school to the GDOH, the students believe they are not getting their value for money and the university needs to step up. They have requested for transparency on the allocation of their fees.

The school’s alumni took heed of the opportunity to support the renewed call for change by recalling their unpleasant experiences at the school.

Former student affairs officer of the DSC, Humayra Ismail, was among those that handed over the 2018 memorandum said that the issues raised are the same issue that were raised years ago.

“Students are seen as being petty when they raise concerns or protest, but had they made a contingency plan the university wouldn’t have this problem.” said Ismail.

Here is a brief timeline outlining the historic issues that have plagued the school.

FEATURED IMAGE: Inside the Wits dental school’s skills laboratory, January 2017. Photo: Nikheel Heera.