Our students have taught us an important lesson in this past week through the unprecedented uprisings that we have seen not only on our campus but throughout our country.
They have put the issue of access to higher education for all firmly on the agenda in a way that no one else has been able to do in the last 20 years. They have had more success in the last week than much of our collective efforts since the dawn of our democracy.
We have heard and understood the concerns raised by our students. We fully support their call for more funding for the higher education sector so that students in need are not confronted with a fee increase in 2016.
The single biggest challenge in our society is inequality. It can only truly be addressed if those in need have access to an affordable world-class education. Our students have done more to achieve this in the last seven days than we have ever done before.
The Chairperson of Council and I, together with other Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Council, and student leaders will be meeting with the President tomorrow. We will voice support for the students’ struggle and their demands. We hope in this meeting to reach a decisive agreement that will see an immediate resolution to the short-term crisis, and a substantive plan to resolve the long-term challenge of underfunding higher education.
We were dismayed to see the excessive police action against protesting students at parliament and elsewhere in recent days. At Wits, we have kept the police off the campus because we do not believe that force should be used to prevent the expression of legitimate demands by peaceful protestors. We call on the police to hold back and to exercise restraint when the students march to the Union Buildings tomorrow.
We would like to see an urgent resolution to the current crisis and call on all stakeholders to work collectively towards achieving this. We cannot afford to lose this academic year because it will further entrench the inequality within our society.
The University is willing to do everything in its power to assist in reaching such an agreement so that we can resume our academic programme as soon as possible.
Professor Adam Habib
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of the Witwatersrand
22 October 2015
- Vice-Chancellor Staff and Professional staff meeting
- Circular 16