PYA gives Wits NSFAS ultimatum

VIVA: Wits students and staff march together in solidarity with students not granted NSFAS. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

VIVA: Wits students and staff march together in solidarity with students who were denied NSFAS funding. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Wits University has been given twenty four hours to allow students without funding to register or face the prospect of disruptions.

Members of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA), South African Student Organisation (SASCO) and the Young Communist League (YCL) today handed  a memorandum over to the dean of students, Dr Pamela Dube in the Senate House concourse. The group is demanding that Wits management “admit students now and solve the issues later”.

[READ MORE: Witsies face uncertain future without NSFAS]

Justice Mokotedi, chair of the Young Communist League at Wits, said protesting students would make the university “ungovernable” if their demands were not met on time.

“There will be no Sunday,” he said referring to the start of the Orientation Week programme starting this weekend.

“We have been sitting in meeting after meeting drinking coffee, our caffeine levels are high but we are tired. Sick and tired! We want answers!”

HAND IT OVER: Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube acknowledges receit of the PYA's memorandum. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

HAND IT OVER: Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube acknowledges receit of the PYA’s memorandum. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

He also accused management and vice chancellor Prof Adam Habib of being on a retreat while the protest was taking place.

“As this is happening and we are protesting for student rights, our VC is enjoying wine and whiskey on a retreat! We give Pamela this memorandum unapologetically.”

SRC (Student Representative Council), secretary general, Senzekahle Mbokazi, said students are protesting because “we cannot understand why there is so much confusion” between Wits and the Department of Higher Education.

Mbokazi said the SRC had been to speak to both the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and Wits.

“NSFAS claims that Wits is mismanaging funds and Wits is saying they were not allocated enough money. In the meantime 2788 students are being held to ransom. More pressure needs to be put on the university,” she said.

As the march progressed throughout the day, protestors blocked the university’s central Yale Road to vent their frustrations.

“We will block campus roads,” said SASCO chairperson Nthabiseng Molefe as she addressed the crowd. “We will show management that we are in control!”


New Dean of Students

STUDENT AFFAIRS: Dr Pamela Dube discusses the changes in store for Students at Wits.

The new Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube would like the student affairs office to become “the place to go” for all student and academic issues.

She spoke with Wits Vuvuzela to discuss her new position and her aspirations for the future of Wits Student Affairs.

Dube said her priorities were solely “focused on student issues” and her aspirations for student affairs “are in alignment with the Vice Chancellors visions for transformation of 2022. I hope by 2022 students will be the centre of all decisions made at the University.”

The student affairs sector of Wits was originally part of Senate, but was later moved to its own office and finally to the operations section of the university in Senate House.

Asked about this apparent downgrading, Dube was shocked.  She said she would do everything in her power to change this. “I want to professionalise this department. I want us to go beyond babysitting students.”

Dube said her plan was to elevate the student affairs office and to make it a place where “all students from undergrad to beyond post-grad are able come to us with problems and moreover professional advice”.

She encouraged students to approach them and use the facilities on offer, such as Campus Health, CCDU and the like. “We want students to trust us. We want to be visible and market ourselves to all students as a full package.”

Dube is part of the university-wide initiative to move away from race and gender as central issues among students. She wants student affairs also to contribute and support the academic side of the university. She plans to encourage diversity and ethics in teaching and among students.

 “I also want to help students from different backgrounds to relate to each other and work in partnership.”

Dube, who is originally from KwaMakutu Township in Kwazulu-Natal, said her parents taught her the “values of focusing on the bigger picture,” and it was these values she hoped to instil within all students during her time at Wits.

“Where there’s a will there’s a way. We are trying to prepare the students for the bigger world out there.”

No answers on Coopoo

By Nokuthula Manyathi and Pheladi Sethusa

As Dean of Students Prem Coopoo spends her sixth week on special leave, the rumour mill churns out speculation and the university remains silent about the reason.

Week to week Wits Vuvuzela has been given the run around when trying to find out more about the situation.

Initially staff and students had been informed Coopoo’s absence would only last for a week.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela last month that Coopoo was placed on special leave pending investigations but would not specify the nature of the investigation.

This week director of special projects, Oliver Seale, said Lamese Abrahams had been appointed the acting dean of students.

He went on to say: “University management is currently in negotiations with Ms P Coopoo on this matter.

We will notify the entire university community on this matter as soon as the negotiations are concluded.”

Some of the rumours Wits Vuvuzela has heard include that the university has plans to change the position of the dean of students, taking away the title of dean. Seale responded to this by saying that was not the case: “Please note that the negotiations with the current incumbent and (sic) not on the job title.”

Wits Vuvuzela contacted six members in executive management, including Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, but could not obtain further comment.