Amidst the protests and police force used against protestors, the actual demands from Wits University students have been lost. Wits University Student Representative Council (SRC) Deputy President, Sthembiso Dabula spoke to the Daily Vox about their list of demands.
Dabula says they want the University to clear all student debt.
“In previous meetings we asked that students who owe R150 000 be allowed to register. In previous years’ students who owed R120 000 were allowed to register. The new rule now is that only students who owe R10 000 or less were allowed to register. This doesn’t make sense with the type of unprecedented year we just had. We have the pandemic, parents lost their jobs, students being defunded by NSFAS because they claim they don’t have enough money. We have students who were defunded by their own bursaries because businesses did not make enough money. So with knowing that students are not able to pay their own fees we found ourselves on the verge of being financially excluded; all 8142 of us. This past Friday the Treasurer of the SRC had a meeting with the senior manager of finance at the university and we found out that 6338 students are yet to register, and these are also students on the verge of financial exclusion.”
They are also demanding that international students shouldn’t have to pay their fees upfront.
“African International students are required to pay 75% of their fees upfront. They were also affected by the pandemic and shouldn’t be required to pay so much upfront. We are on Level 1 of Lockdown now, students must be allowed to come back and occupy residences. Wits has a phased-in return. So nationally what we are calling for is that NSFAS cannot say they cannot fund first-year students on the basis that they don’t have money. These are poor working class students who applied and are not able to pay for their fees. So if NSFAS is not going to fund first year students they cannot study or be accommodated at Wits.”
Their blanket demand is continuing the call for free, decolonised education.
“We are still calling for free and decolonised education like the students who came before us. The only government response was that NSFAS won’t be a loan anymore; it is going to be a bursary. The same NSFAS that is failing us now. How is NSFAS part of free education when we still need to qualify for it? You can’t use it to further your studies and they can defund you at any point. We are faced with so much police brutality. We are still continuing with what we started.”