Black academics at Wits speak out

African News Agency (ANA)

Wits #FeesMustFall protest. Photo: ANA

The Black Academics Caucus at the University of Witswatersrand (Wits) on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” by the fees impasse at the institutions’ campuses, and also “shocked” by the way university management and government were responding.

“We are deeply concerned by the current systemic crisis that besets our universities and the impasse that has ensued at the University of the Witwatersrand. This is unprecedented and presents a precarious situation demanding extraordinary action,” they said in a statement.

“Conversely we are shocked by the way university management and the state have/are responding. We are very skeptical of some of decisions taken so far that in our view have potential to irrevocably destroy our university.”

This comes after clashes broke out at Wits on Monday and spilling out to Braamfontein after students pelted private security guards with stones in front of the Great Hall. A bus was torched and a Puma shop stoned and looted in Braamfontein.

Police tried to disperse protesting students, using stun grenades, water cannons, teargas and rubber bullets.

The students have been protesting for about three weeks now demanding free education. Their protest began after Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, announced on 19 September that universities could decide on their own whether to hike the fees for 2017, but should not exceed eight percent.

Wits black academics said they had the burden of enduring the same system that their students were rejecting.

“We strongly support the urgent need for the de-commodification and decolonisation of our education system as a step towards transformation and redressing the dispossession that underpinned apartheid and colonisation experienced by our societies for centuries,” Wits Black Academics said.

“We strongly believe the demands by the students are legitimate and can be realised for the broader benefit and transformation of our society. We applaud the current generation of students for articulating critical questions challenging the power, structure and how our society is organised. The structural challenges are central in reproducing the ills of poverty, inequality, unemployment and crime that are overwhelming our society. We need not be reminded that challenging this order was the essence of the struggle against apartheid.”

The situation remained tense at Wits on Tuesday as protesting students continued demonstrating outside the Great Hall while police monitored security to ensure that classes progressed without disturbance.

In a statement, Wits University confirmed that the academic programme was on track on Tuesday and some arrests had been made.

“Classes resumed this morning and as at 10am all academic activities are on track,” Wits said.

“A group of students tried to close the entrance to the Wits Management Campus today and they dispersed when security and the police intervened. The police have followed them and are currently managing the situation. One student has been arrested.”

“A group of about six students tried to disrupt a lecture on the Wits Education Campus but security stepped in and they ran away. We are doing our level best to ensure that lectures continue without disruption today. We also request staff and students to stay away from areas of conflict for their own safety.”

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SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)