SA’s 26 vice-chancellors meet to discuss students’ demands

University of Pretoria SRC members outside the Department of Higher Education in Pretoria where they gathered to protest after a person was killed during protests outside Wits University, 11 March 2021. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The 26 vice-chancellors of public universities in South Africa are expected to convene a Universities South Africa (USAf) meeting today, Monday 15 March, to discuss student demands and a threatened national shutdown of universities.

The Wits University senior executive team (SET) met with the Students Representative Council (SRC) to discuss students’ demands.

The demands include reduced fees and the cancellation of student debt.

Among others, the students have demanded that:

  • Wits (and other universities) postpone the commencement of the academic year to 30 March 2021.
  • All students be allowed to register, irrespective of the quantum of debt owing to the university.
  • All students be allowed to graduate, irrespective of the quantum of debt owing to the university.
  • There should be no fee increases for 2021.
  • All students who receive residence offers must be allowed to occupy the residences with immediate effect.
  • Universities must pressurise the government for a debt bailout of all institutions.
  • All international students from the SADC and broader Diaspora regions must be allowed to register without having to effect payment of 75% of the tuition fee up front.
  • All suspension orders must be lifted with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Wits University announced the academic programme would continue online today, as determined by faculties and Wits that remains fully operational.

“Senior executive members in consultation with managers will determine the on-campus staffing requirements in order to ensure the continuity of university activities,” it said.

The SET called for calm among the students as protests continue on Monday.

“We encourage all parties to remain calm, to exercise maximum restraint and to attempt to resolve issues through dialogue and engagement. We remain committed to engaging with student leaders to try to resolve these matters at the institutional, sectoral and national levels,” it said.

The Citizen/Vhahangwele Nemakonde