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LISTEN | 321 students will be admitted at Wits after 12-hour SRC sit-in

11 February 2020 - 13:45 By Deepika Naidoo
Wits University students staged a sit-in on campus to protest about issues affecting their studies.
Wits University students staged a sit-in on campus to protest about issues affecting their studies.
Image: Sunday Times/Thapelo Morebudi

Wits University and its student representative council (SRC) have agreed to help disenfranchised students in a "one-off" deal reached after a marathon sit-in at the main campus on Monday.

Since the start of the year, at least 321 students have not been able to register due to historical debt, academic exclusion and difficulty securing funding. Many of them turned to the SRC for help.

Student leaders recently staged a sit-in on the 11th floor of the admin building in a bid to help affected students.

The Wits SRC Twitter account (@Wits_SRC) released an official statement listing their demands on Monday. They wanted an increase in the hardship fund, accommodation to be provided to homeless students and better communication about the hardship fund.

The hardship fund, according to the Wits website, seeks to aid students with debt of more than R10,000 by allowing them to register and receive accommodation.

During the sit-in, the 11th floor was filled to capacity. Security downstairs would not let anyone else up to the floor. After about 12 hours, the SRC and management reached an agreement.

Wits SRC secretary-general Katie Morgets said the SRC demands had been met after a long meeting.

“We sat there for 12 hours, and we told ourselves not to retreat or surrender. We had all our demands met.”

Students have been struggling in the past month to clear debt, secure funding and find accommodation. Some have nowhere to live.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, registered successfully but could not find accommodation. She claimed she was left couch surfing by a rule put in place by the university to allow 50% of the residence rooms to be allocated to first-year students.

“Students aren’t able to come back to res because most rooms are for first-year students”.

However, according to Wits University, there are empty spaces in seven of its 13 residences.

Wits said in a statement that 321 students had been allowed readmission to the university after the agreement was reached. A sum of R2m from both the university and SRC would be allocated to the hardship fund.

“This has been a difficult process, but all parties believe this will serve as a framework which will enable the parties to focus on the business of teaching and learning. The SRC and management will engage in the broader systemic issues, both constructively and in the best interests of all stakeholders.”

"This is a one-off arrangement and will not set a precedent," the university said.