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Time for a student referendum: Habib

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Although thousands of students agree with the study fee protests, they do not want to sacrifice their own qualifications for the cause, Wits University vice-chancellor Adam Habib said on Monday. He said he had received an enormous amount of letters saying this is just not fair.

Students say they need to finish my degrees so they can help their families, he told News24 over the phone. Habib said he was offended by a small group that claimed to represent all students. He wanted to hear more from the majority.

“We need the voices of ordinary students, people in South Africa need to be heard. Not some small group who believe they speak for the nation and that they are the fountain of wisdom of everybody else. I find it offensive, I find it wrong,” Habib said.

Students on campuses countrywide started protesting last Monday after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said universities could raise fees, but by no more than 8%, for 2017. Poor students would not be affected.

Habib said accountable leadership needed to put the interests of its constituency ahead of its own.

“Otherwise we are recreating the problems of the political past: a new generation of leaders who think they don’t have to be responsive to what everybody wants because they represent them.”

He believed putting the matter to a vote might help.

“We could have a referendum; let’s hear the views of the students. We have the electronic means, let’s hear what the students want, the academic staff wants, what they think,” he said.

He suspected most would say they supported free education and bringing down the cost of education, but were not prepared to sacrifice their studies for the broader issue.

Meanwhile, the Wits Student Representative Council said it would spend most of Monday finalising its demands. A meeting with students was scheduled for later in the day.

[Source: News24]
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