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#WitsShutDown: Student Protest Brings South African University to a Standstill

 Picture: @WitsPYA/Twitter.

Picture: @WitsPYA/Twitter.

Students at The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg shut down the college campus on Wednesday to protest a planned tuition increase.

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked entrances to the university,  known as Wits, as they protested against the increase in university fees. The university institution has proposed an increase of 10.5 percent due to declining government subsidies. Students refused to end the occupation  until a representative from management accepts their demands.

Students took to social media to share images and videos of the shutdown using the hashtags #WitsFeesMustFall and #WhitsShutdown.

Students also used the hashtags to highlight the violence being experienced:

The university posted a statement on social media cancelling lectures for the day, as well as a message from the vice chancellor’s office about the protest.

The statement read:

All lectures and academic activities have been suspended for one day only – Wednesday, 14 October 2015 in the interests of protecting the safety and security of staff and students.

This follows a sit-in by groups of students and student leaders who initially prevented staff and students from entering campus and who disrupted some academic activities this morning. Aside from one altercation this morning and the vandalisation of some classes overnight, no violence has been reported.

This is an unofficial protest and although everything is calm, Wits is cancelling all lectures and other academic activities for the day. We think that this is the most prudent route to manage the situation and to ensure the safety and security of all staff and students.

The protest violates the protest policy of the University and Wits’ student rules and while the University recognizes that students have a right to protest this cannot happen at the expense of the rights of students and staff members to learn and work in a safe environment.

Wits will take the necessary action in line with our policies and procedures to create an environment that allows teaching and learning to continue.

In a Facebook post, Wits’ Student Representative Council said:

Wits University has taken a deliberate and anti-progressive decision to once more entrench the financial exclusion of poor students by exorbitantly increasing the upfront fee payment in particular and fees in general. There is currently an upward trend in fees at all universities around the country and NSFAS is not increasing at the same rate as Wits fees. Wits proposed fee increases are simply unjust and unjustifiable. One must then ask, how much longer is this going to go on for? How long is Wits University going to continue to exclude poor students?

Many overseas expressed solidarity with the student protesters.

 

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