Members of the Academic Staff Association at Wits University have added their voices in solidarity protest against the current funding challenge faced by the higher education sector in South Africa.
They marched through Wits University Braamfontein campus waving posters screaming: “Free Education Now”, “save our universities”.
Following last month’s protest over financial exclusion that has threatened the long-term survival of public institutions, they say the concessions on free education made after the #FeesMustFall movement were inadequate in alleviating the pressure on either scholars and academic staff.
They said government had reneged on promises it made to the higher education sector during at the height of the #FeesMustFall campaign.
President of Academic Staff Association at Wits University, Precious Biyila noted staff, 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 stated that the fiscal crisis extended far beyond the problems plaguing the national students financial aid scheme, adding that without a lasting resolution, public institutions would suffer decline.
Academic staff say students involved in the protests were still smattering from trauma while receiving instructions to continue with classes as normal against the backdrop of the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba.
The Johannesburg Magistrates Court heard last month that Ntumba died after he was shot at close-range by the anti-riot police.
Police Minister Bheki Cele released a report in Pretoria by a panel of experts on Monday, looking into policing and crowd control in the South African Police Service. Cele stated that the 2012 Marikana tragedy compelled the police to change its crowd control techniques.
Wits students say they will not heed SAUS’ call to suspend protests. This is in contradiction to a decision taken by the union to suspend all protests, following a meeting with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande earlier this week.
SRC President Mpendulo Mfeka accused the union of selling out students. According to SAUS, they agreed to suspend the national shutdown after Nzimande made a number of concessions, including reallocating R7 billion to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
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