Academic staff at Wits stand in solidarity with protesting students

They say the concessions on free education made after the fees must fall movement seemed not to have alleviated pressure on either students or academic staff.

Protesting students march back to Braamfontein along Solomon & Smit streets on 15 March 2021. Picture: @JoburgMPD/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Academic staff at Wits University on Thursday said the current funding challenge faced by the higher education sector threatened the long-term survival of public institutions.

Members of the Academic Staff Association are demonstrating at the institution in solitary with students following last month’s protest over financial exclusion.

They say the concessions on free education made after the fees must fall movement seemed not to have alleviated pressure on either students or academic staff.

Staff have marched through the Wits University in Braamfontein campus with placards saying: “save our universities”.

The said government had not delivered on the promise it made to the higher education sector during the height of the fees must fall movement.

Academic Staff Association at Wits University president Precious Biyila said employees, students and the institution were all victims of the current funding crisis.

“You’ve been in the streets for weeks, you’ve been tear-gassed and you’ve witnessed a murder. We’re here standing in solidarity with you.”

Biyila said the financial crisis extended far beyond the problems plaguing the national students financial aid scheme, adding that without a lasting solution, public institutions would decay.

“This is not about the student and I plead with all the colleagues that are out here and all of South Africa, we need to see this as more than frustrated and angry students who are burning tyres in Braam.”

Academic staff say students involved in the protests were traumatised while they were given messages to hold classes as normal against the backdrop of the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba.

Late last month, the Johannesburg Magistrates Court heard that Ntumba died after he was shot at close-range by a rubber bullet.

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