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Wits SRC Is Still Negotiating To Get Poor Students Back At The University Without Contravening The Law

“Given the statistics that we have gathered of students who owe, there’s very little to celebrate in the concessions made by management."

23/01/2017 07:52 SAST | Updated 23/01/2017 07:57 SAST
John Wessels / AFP / Getty Images
Students and members of the South African Union of Students (SAUS) hold placards as they march to the Chamber Miners to hand over a memorandum demanding free education on October 14, 2016 in Johannesburg.

The Wits University student representative council (SRC) says that despite a number of challenges, it is negotiating with government and management to have financially disadvantaged students register at the institution.

The SRC on Sunday issued a statement on the status of negotiations saying their core challenge was getting the state to allow the university to register students, without violating the Credit Act.

According to the SRC, the university's report of a meeting with the department of higher education and training states that government "have done all they could" with the concessions that are already on the table for Nsfas students.

The SRC said that on January 19, the department together with SRC presidents around the country met to discuss historical debts. According to the SRC, this meeting revealed that the violation of the credit act was a national issue.

"All SRCs requested the minister to grant the guarantee and their request was dismissed in the same argument that was given to VCs — the state has done all it could with the concessions that are already on the table."

The SRC said it then went back to the university management and argued that "something needs to be done".

"It cannot be that we fold our arms when students are faced with kissing their futures goodbye simply because they don't have the financial means to cover their debts; especially given the fact that a majority of these students are poor and black."

According to the SRC, after those series of engagements, management proposed that students who owe less than R10,000 will be allowed to register. Their debt would be carried over into 2017.

It added that if students owe more than R10,000 they have to pay 50% of the debt before being allowed to register.

The university also said that like last year, if students owe R15,000 and less they would be allowed to graduate.

The SRC was however critical of the concession proposal by management.

"Given the statistics that we have gathered of students who owe, there's very little to celebrate in the concessions made by management because a lot of students don't have the financial means to cover 50% of their debts. This means a lot still needs to be done to ensure that no student is excluded on the basis of owing fees."

The SRC said that it had sent a letter to the interim ministerial task team asking them to appeal to President Jacob Zuma to sign off the guarantee universities require to register students.

It said it was also sending out letters to different stakeholders to contribute towards raising funds so students could cover at least 50% of their debts.

The SRC said it would also fight to extend the date for late registrations "so that we buy ourselves more time to raise the money needed".

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