The Wits SRC is disappointed by the announcement by the University Management of an 8% fee increment for the 2017 academic year. We as the SRC have reiterated our stance of a moratorium on fee increments until the realisation of Free, Quality and Decolonized education, in line with the call of the Fees Must Fall movement.
The SRC is the highest statutory body in institutions of higher learning as recognised by the Department of Higher Education and as such, we sit on the highest decision making body of the university.
The institution has on many occasions asked what the SRC’s stance is on fee increment and naturally we have emphasised our call for Free Education comes with a commitment from the university to 0%. The SRC has fought in the supposed ‘consultative’ processes for a 0% pronouncement but unfortunately, when it comes down to making these bold decisions, we are always outvoted in these decision making bodies.
The power that the institution holds over such decisions is a mechanism used to silence the voice of the student and as such, must be questioned. The issue of 0% is not something that is new. During the 2015 Fees Must Fall protests, the call for a moratorium on fee increments was made. This was a call made to institutions of higher learning as well as government.
The SRC has, throughout the year, made it very clear that anything more than 0% is unacceptable. The university had sufficient time to pool together their resources in an attempt to avoid a fee increment. It is clear that the university had no intention of pronouncing 0%.
We had hoped that the university would have recognised the need to rebuild a very broken and disunited institution, using a 0% pronouncement as a starting point. The university has come out on many occasions to claim to support the call for Free, Quality and Decolonized Education. It seems extremely disingenuous then for them to make a decision that goes against the very core of this principle. It is also very problematic and strategic that they choose to announce this decision at a time when the student population is demobilized due to it being December and just after the exam period. There is no opportunity for students to engage on the matter and for us to mobilize as we now see the need.
This announcement is exactly the negative element that we as student leaders were trying to avoid, when we brought it to the attention of the Minister of Higher Education that a delay in the report back from the Commission on Funding of Higher Education would leave too much room for this kind of action from tertiary institutions. Despite our forewarning to government, they ignored our plea and subsequently allowed for the university to announce a fee increment. This has turned the focus once more onto our institutions. We recognise this attempt from government to absolve themselves from finding a solution to our crisis. We are once more reduced to speaking about fee increments and not about the actual goal of Free Education.
The need for a restructuring of the higher education system has never come at a more critical time. Poor black students who partook in the 2015 Fees Must Fall protests had hopes that government would hear their cry for a burden free experience at a tertiary institution when they pronounced 0% last year. Those same students took to the streets this year with that same hope but this time were met with rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas and told to go and write exams for which they were severely unprepared. The system is against us as poor black students in our own country, and the fee increment is proof of this.
SRC President Kefentse Mkhari : 0738785440
SRC Secretary General David Manabile : 0762291369
For more about Wits SRC, refer to ww.wits.ac.za.
To view other NGO press releases, refer to www.ngopulse.org/press-releases.