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Wits academic programme continues

- Wits University

Business as usual at Wits after the announcement by Minister of Higer Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, regarding fee increases.

STATEMENT FROM THE SENIOR EXECUTIVE TEAM – 18:30

Academic programme continues tomorrow

As you are aware, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, recommended an 8% increase in university fees for 2017, and publicly committed to pay that increase for any student who has a family income of less than R600 000 per annum. This recommendation will serve at our Council meeting on 30 September 2016. In the coming days, we will engage with all stakeholders in this regard with a view to developing consensus on the issue.

Some students rejected this recommendation by the Minister and decided to embark on protests that involved some disruption of classes and some closures of entrances. Campus control and private security tried to contain these protests and public order police were called in to clear the entrances. This was done by around 5pm and traffic was allowed to flow without disruption although inconvenience was caused to individuals in the hours before. Staff and some students did at times get annoyed, but overall most people behaved in a measured way.

We do want members of the University community to recognise that in circumstances such as this it is important to get the balance right in managing the protest. If we are too heavy handed, it could backfire. If we are too soft, then it could embolden the violation of rights of others. This is the difficulty we have to manage, and when confronted in circumstances like this, we urge all members of the University community to be patient and to work with us so that we can address the challenge as quickly as is possible.

Our priority, it must be remembered, is to keep the academic programme intact. The future of too many students and families depend on their performance at university, and we should do all that is possible to ensure that the academic programme is protected. This is why we kept the University open and why we will continue to do so. We have beefed up security even further and have finalised protocols with the police to ensure that safety and security is in place at Wits. Security at lecture venues, laboratories and libraries has been strengthened. Please report incidents to (011) 717-4444 or (011) 717-6666 or (011) 717-1873.

We have also come to an agreement with the student leadership. This entails the following: they will be allowed to use the Concourse in Solomon Mahlangu House (Senate House) between 5 and 10 pm. They have committed not to block entrances and not to disrupt classes. Should anyone do so, the University will act appropriately to protect our community and environment through a range of measures, including suspensions and arrests. It is important to reiterate that while we will protect the right to protest, we will not condone the violation of the rights of others and the destruction of property. It is important that the student leadership recognises that their responsibility is to the entire student body and not only to a narrow section of it.

Please note that tomorrow is business as usual. We will have heightened security measures to ensure the safety and the protection of all. There may, as a result, be minor inconveniences experienced and we ask you to bear with us in this regard. Please note that we will allow protests so long as they are peaceful and do not violate the rights of the University community.

Communiques will come out regularly in the coming days to keep all members of the University community up to date on developments. Please also follow @Wits_News and @WitsUniversity for updates. We thank all members of the community for their patience and forbearance in these difficult times. Know however, that we as a community can only grow stronger through the collective resolution of these challenges.

Sincerely

Senior Executive Team

19 September 2016

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