Wits: Lectures to resume online today despite planned national shutdown

They want historic debt to be cleared and that universities not increase fees this year.

FILE. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - Wits University said lectures would continue online on Monday morning as students across the country prepared for a shutdown related to the higher education sector's financial crisis.

They want historic debt to be cleared and that universities not increase fees this year.

The South African Union of Students is expecting demonstrations at all 26 universities in South Africa.

Government has been told to deliver on its promise to provide free higher education after thousands of students were unable to register after losing funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bystander was killed when police fired rubber bullets during a Wits protests in Braamfontein last week.

READ: Shutdown looming as talks between students, Manamela break down

University management is calling for calm.

Spokesperson Shirona Patel said: “We urge all parties to remain calm, to exercise maximum restraint and to attempt to resolve these issues in dialogue and engage. Wits management remains committed to engaging with students to try and resolve these matters at an institutional, sectoral and national level.”

Meanwhile, Universities South Africa said there was enormous financial pressure on universities and the financial demands made by students embarking on a national shut down added to it.

READ: Protesting Wits students vow to bring Joburg to a standstill

Universities South Africa's CEO Ahmed Bawa said: “We have to find a short-term solution for this year and that has to be some sort of accommodation of work between government and the university. So, we might be able, with government, to find a way of dealing with these challenges. The biggest problem is we have to try and find what to do for next year.”

Meanwhile, Wits SRC president Mpendulo Mfeka said an interim solution for this year would not solve the problem: “15 years back, these were the same lecturers who were having the same conversations. So, they are complicit in this and five years again from now, we will have the same issue. This conversation needs to go to its logical conclusion and that is the government. But we cannot expect students to do this by themselves.”

WATCH: TIMELINE: University students demand an end to financial exclusion

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