Statement from the Senior Executive Team on protests
- Wits University
The University is committed to ensuring that staff and students are safe. The academic programme will continue as scheduled.
Some students are protesting outside Yale Road North on Empire Road this morning. Please avoid the Yale Road North entrance and access the University via alternative entrances. The academic programme will continue as scheduled. Campus Protection Services is managing the protests. Additional security has been brought in to enable access to Wits’ campuses for staff and students, and to ensure that staff and students are safe and that the academic programme continues.
Commitment to Students
Wits University is committed to enabling students to access higher education, as far as its resources allow. The University has progressively increased the amount of funding allocated to students. In 2022 Wits disbursed over R1,6 billion to 26,161 students.
Partnership with the SRC
Management has been working with the SRC over the past few weeks to help secure funding, largely from the private sector, to enable academically deserving students to access higher education. In fact, up until last night, officials were in contact with the SRC trying to get as many qualifying students to register as possible. It therefore comes as a surprise that despite these arrangements and the working relationship which has been established, that some members of the SRC and some students have elected to protest. Wits has matched the R6,2 million brought in by the SRC rand for rand. In effect, there is a pot of R12,4 million available in the SRC Fund for qualifying students.
To date, over 36 200 (96%) of Wits’ students have registered for the 2023 academic year, with postgraduate intakes set to continue throughout the year.
Wits Hardship Fund
In 2023 alone, the University has committed R28 million (up from R10 million) to the Wits Hardship Find, to assist academically deserving students to register and to secure emergency accommodation, in line with the rules of the Fund and resources permitting. To date over 500 students have been funded at a cost of R18.1 million.
This is over and above the R150 million that the University provides in scholarships to deserving students annually.
The University has secured 350 beds from accredited private accommodation service providers to assist students in need, including those that have been sleeping in libraries and other spaces. These students are being assisted on a daily basis as beds become available. The University and private service providers are also navigating NSFAS’ decision to cap accommodation costs at R45,000 per annum, which is regrettable. Wits appealed the decision and lobbied for a differentiated approach that takes the real cost of accommodation into account. This will be pursued by USAF - in the interim Wits is assisting NSFAS-funded students on campus and in accredited private residences, who have accepted the cap for this year.
A number of other concessions have also been made including:
- allowing students who owe R10 000 or less to register,
- allowing students whose total household income is below R600 000 to apply for registration assistance by paying 50% of the outstanding debt due and by making an arrangement to pay the balance of the debt during the course of the academic year, and
- allowing students who owe R15 000 or less to graduate.
The University is doing all that it can within our means to assist students, be it through funding students, fundraising from various sectors, and administering financial aid, bursaries and scholarships. We will continue to work with the SRC and our partners in the private and public sectors to do all that we can to help academically deserving students who qualify for hardship funding.
Senior Executive Team
1 March 2023