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Free education is a process - Habib

The Wits vice-chancellor warned that the academic programme may not be completed if the protests continue.

Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib addresses a group of students on campus who were protesting over the outsourcing of employees on campus on 28 October 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University Vice Chancellor Adam Habib says while he does believe the call for free higher education is legitimate, he says it's a process.

Habib says if universities don't open within the next few weeks it may result in some students not being able to register next year.

At least 10 universities have been shut down in the wake of nationwide #FeesMustFall demonstrations.

Habib says some faculties are reaching a point of no return and the academic programme may not be completed.

"If you were to take programmes like engineering, the Faulty of Health Sciences, where we're training doctors and dentists and pharmacists, if you're looking at those kind of programmes, then we're much time lurching."

WITS TO ANNOUNCE POLL RESULTS TODAY

Meanwhile, Wits University says it will make an announcement on the outcomes of a poll it conducted about whether the institution should reopen next Monday.

Yesterday, SMSes were sent to students and staff who were asked to vote if they want academic activities to resume on campus if adequate security is provided.

Habib says at least ten institutions have been closed nationwide in the wake of demonstrations and violent clashes between students, campus security and police during the last week.

The university says most students received the poll, except for some whose phones were switched off or their details had not been updated on the system.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel says they will announce the results around midday today.

"Given that we didn't do a sample, we did the entire student body, we've got enough responses we believe and we've pulled in enough people for it to be credible."

But the Wits SRC's Fasiha Hassan says contrary to what vice-chancellor Habib has said, they are willing to engage as students.

"What we're calling for is the university assembly, which all stakeholders of the Wits community, students, academics, workers, management, etc. all coming to one space and discuss these pertinent issues."

Academics at the institution are also expected to demonstrate in support of students at the Great Hall stairs at noon today.

UJ TO BOLSTER SECURITY

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) says it has no choice but to take the necessary precautions to secure campuses, following recent #FeesMustFall protests.

The university has been accused of using military-like strategies such as the outsourcing of private security to respond to protesting students who are calling for free higher education.

But following a fire at a lecture hall yesterday, officials say additional security is necessary, as the university attempts to resume with its academic programme.

The university's Kaamini Reddy says heightened security is necessary at this time when the university is identifying increasing threats.

"With the threat of petrol bombs and those kind of things security is heightened and one has to understand that we've got to take all precautions necessary."

Yesterday, a lecture hall was set alight at the university's Bunting Road campus which saw protests this week.

One first year student says while she did join this week's demonstrations, she hopes the academic programme won't face any more serious disruptions.

"We just want to write and complete this but it's all bad right now."

But student leaders say what they are calling for is a meeting with management to clearly discuss their grievances.