While the student representative council (SRC) at the University of the Witwatersrand vows to continue protesting until their demands are met, vice-principal Professor Andrew Crouch says their demands will put the institution at risk.
The SRC embarked on a hunger strike, demanding accommodation and registration for students who had historical debt. They want the university to allow students who owe R100 000 or less to register for the 2019 academic year.
However, Crouch said: “That would put the operations of the university at risk, because operationally we won’t be able to deliver on a quality academic programme.”
The SRC also says students who have been granted space by the institution should be allowed to register, that returning students should be assisted with accommodation and that upfront fees should be scrapped for students who come from households that have an income of less than R600 000.
But Crouch maintained that the institution was unable to allow students who had debt of R100 000 or less to register, pointing out that the university’s bad debt, which was already at its peak, would build up.
But it could, as per the council-approved concessions for 2019, allow students who owed the institution R10 000 or less to register.
“The context here is that the university is doing its utmost to assist students. Unfortunately, the reality is that we are working within limitations of our budget. We cannot accede to a request that would leave the university at financial risk,” said Crouch.
Crouch added that those who owed R10 000 or less were able to roll over the debt to the current academic year.
In addition, he pointed out that there was a hardship fund of R10m that was made available for students who were in real need.
6700 beds available for accommodation
The institution catered for students that owed the university up to R100 000. It would be able to make provision for the debt to be reduced by 50% to allow students to register.
Crouch said about 130 applications were received for accommodation and 60 of those students had already been placed.
He added that the university only had 6 700 beds available which were under its control.
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