VIOLENT clashes between students and riot police broke out at Wits University on Tuesday as various student groupings protested against financial exclusion.
The student groupings are calling for the university to allow students to register for the 2021 academic year despite budget cuts and financial constraints experienced by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday that all existing students in Higher Education Institutions (HIEs) from previous years will have their tuition fees paid by NFSAS, despite shortfall revenues.
But on Tuesday morning, students blocked Empire Road with boulders and rubbish bins, causing traffic chaos.
“The Student Representative Council (SRC) is going to mobilize more students and if need be we are going to mobilize other universities because this is a shared struggle to ensure that the University puts learning on hold,” said Wits SRC President, Mpendulo Mfeka.
Hours after the violence broke out, the university management responded to the media regarding the protests outside the school, saying registration is continuing despite the protests.
“95% of registration is complete. We have registered over 35500 of 37500 students. The remaining 2000 are likely postgrads who will register in July and September,” said Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel.
Patel said all registration was online. However, if students required personal assistance, the university has staff on site to help with the registration process.
“We cannot afford to start the academic year with the problems we are currently facing not only at Wits but other universities too,” said Mfeka.
The SRC said most students have not received data or laptops to continue with online learning despite denials by the university.
Patel explained: “Wits commenced with the academic programme online yesterday. About 95% of Wits’ 37 500 students have already registered and 25 000 participated in online classes yesterday. Students have a new learning management system and have been given data (30GB per month) and laptops to study.”
(SOURCE: INSIDE EDUCATION)