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Wits' Response To SRC'S Demands - 10 March 2023

- Wits University

STATEMENT: Wits addresses some of the misinformation being shared by some protestors with students.

1. Demand: Wits must do more to assist students with funding

Response: Wits has committed R150 million for bursaries and scholarships this year. Last year, Wits administered R1,6 billion in financial aid, scholarships and bursaries which helped over 26,000 students.

2. Demand: Wits must add R30 million more to the Wits Hardship Fund

Response: R28 million has been committed through the Wits Hardship Fund to assist qualifying students to register and to secure emergency accommodation. To date, 503 students have been assisted. Wits also matched the R6 million raised by the SRC rand for rand = R12 million. In total, there is R40 million available to assist students in need, of which about R36 million has already been allocated.

3. Demand: Wits must register all students who owe R150 000 and below

Response: Wits cannot agree to this request as it amounts to hundreds of millions of rands, which would make the University unsustainable.

4. Demand: Wits must register all 6 000 students on the SRC’s list

Response: There are about 200 students who qualify academically in 2023, and who owe funds to the university. Some of the protestors who want to register have failed multiple times, have lost their funding, and are now demanding to return. In one case, a student has been in the system for eight years, and is only in his second year of study.

Wits is committed to welcoming as many academically deserving students as possible. We cannot enrol students who have performed dismally simply because they feel they must be admitted. If they are not passing, they are taking the place of other academically deserving students. 

5. Demand: Wits must cover the shortfall created by the R45 000 NSFAS annual cap on accommodation

Response: Wits can’t change NSFAS policies but accredited private accommodation service providers have agreed to accommodate students within the R45,000 cap. Wits has challenged NSFAS on this cap and will continue to address this matter with NSFAS.

6. Demand: Wits must secure 150 more emergency beds for students sleeping in libraries

Response: Wits secured 350 beds + 150 additional beds to assist students in need, particularly 40 vulnerable students who had no place to stay.

7. Demand: Wits must lift the R10 000 upfront payment to access Wits residences

Response: The University already has an option for students to defer the first fee payment.

8. Demand: Wits has not made any other concessions to help students

Response: A number of other concessions have 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 arranging 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.

9. Claim: Wits is suspending students who protest

Response: Wits will never prevent peaceful protests. However, when students break the University’s rules, damage property and infringe on the rights of those who want to learn and work, the University has no choice but to act against these students. Several students have been suspended to date.