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Wits management, SRC strike deal over fees

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No Wits student will be excluded because they cannot make their first fee payment before enrolment or registration, according to an agreement the university has reached with the SRC.

Advanced students would be able to see their progress reports, even if they still owed money, and an agreement for the repayment of outstanding debts had been reached, both parties said on Tuesday.

Arrangements would be made to help those who did not have enough food.

Last year’s #FeesMustFall protests were revived at some universities at the start of registration. This led to at least four institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand, obtaining interdicts against protesters.

After Wits closed for on-site registration, Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Habib issued an impassioned plea that registration be allowed to continue, especially for those who had travelled from far.

It was further agreed that all students who owed Wits up to R1 000 as at December 31 2015 would be allowed to register in 2016. The outstanding debt for 2015 would be rolled over to 2016. This would benefit around 3 607 students this year.

All students who could show that they were fully funded for 2016 would be allowed to register. They would have to sign an acknowledgement of debt for fees owed in 2015.

Wits would work with the SRC to raise funds to clear the debt of approximately 1 284 students who owed between R1 001 and R5 000 as at December 31 2015. If this was successful, these students would be allowed to register in 2016.

The SRC and Wits would approach the Gauteng government to cover the debt of about 1 418 students who owed between R5 001 and R20 000. If successful, these students would be allowed to register for the 2016 academic year.

DECIDING ON PROPOSED MINIMUM WAGE DEMAND

The children of workers who qualify for university would get a full funding package, including tuition and accommodation.

The university would decide on the proposed minimum wage demand of between R4 500 and R5 000 for workers like cleaners and gardeners, and report more frequently on efforts to employ contract workers directly.

They agreed that they needed to find non-violent and amicable ways to resolve issues.

The outcome of appeals against National Students Financial Aid Scheme decisions would be made known immediately after each meeting of the appeals committee.

Wits would give the SRC data to substantiate the need for state intervention on debt clearance for the “missing middle” – those not rich enough to afford tuition, but not poor enough to qualify for funding.

The university said it needed 24 hours to adjust its administrative processes to accommodate the agreement.

The University of Pretoria had also closed because of protests. Spokesperson Anna-Retha Bouwer said a meeting was under way on Tuesday to resolve issues which were similar to those at Wits.

Meanwhile, SRC representatives walked out of a meeting arranged by the SA Council of Churches, accusing it of being a government mouthpiece.

Earlier in January, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said R16bn would be made available to support students and help universities cover their funding shortfalls.

This was after President Jacob Zuma announced in October last year that fees for 2016 would not increase. News24


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