Wits postpones academic programme

Wits postpones academic programme

Wits management along with former leaders of the Black Students Society and SRCs on Tuesday, mediated negotiations between student groups to postpone the academic programme. 

Wits fees protest - October 2016
Photo: Maryke Vermaak

“To enable this process to continue, we have agreed to suspend the academic programme with a common objective to resume it in full on Monday, 10 October 2016,” seniors executives of the university said in a statement.

Earlier the university said despite disruptions from Tuesday, the academic programme would resume on Wednesday due to a large number of staff members and students who wanted to return.

Wits said they made this concession because they did not want the scenes that played out on its campuses on Tuesday, to be repeated.

“Such scenes put our students and staff on edge and do not enable a full resumption of the academic programme. If a negotiated outcome can achieve this end, then we will be all the stronger as a university community. The student constituency is as committed as we are to salvaging the 2016 academic year,” the university said.

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Tense standoff at Wits 7
Photo: Samkelo Maseko

On Monday, protesting students declared that Wits would not be opened until their demand for free education was met, despite previously agreeing with management to resume with the academic programme.

The university said they had agreed to withdraw the police to the perimeter of the university’s campuses under the express commitment from all parties that there would be no violence or intimidation of students and staff.

The protests, which could result in the university possibly shutting down the 2016 academic year, started more than two weeks ago after Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande announced that state universities could hike next year’s fees, but that it would be capped at eight percent.

Wits unrest students
Photo: Maryke Vermaak

“For the remainder of this week, former leaders of the Black Student Society and SRCs, supported by clergy, will facilitate and mediate a process of consensus building between student groups, university management and other role players with a view towards having a General Assembly on Friday, 7 October 2016. Such an Assembly would be chaired by the Chancellor and would focus on a consensual position on the principle of full access to higher education,” the university said.

Wits management said they understood that some individuals were not entirely happy about the decision, but they truly believed that if a negotiated outcome reached, it would be in the broader interests of all stakeholders and saving the 2016 academic year.

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