Walter Sisulu University management (who ultimately have the responsibility to ensure secure and functional education), have continued to engage with the Institutional SRC, however, student protest has not ceased and an institution-wide shut-down has been declared by the Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC).
We now find ourselves at an impassethat sees the 2021 academic year under threat, including our staff and University property that stand at riskdue to continued student protest action.
Our situation as one of the Eastern Cape’s primary vehicles for higher education provision is further challenged by the results of the COVID-19 pandemic that whichwe’ve kept in mind during our tireless engagements with student representatives.
In our continuous engagement with students, management negotiated its standpoint and indeed conceded to various demands, including waiving the Minimum Initial Payments (MIP/Registration) fee to ensure that students can continue to access higher education despite being financially challenged. Despite our efforts to engage the issues peacefully, we have experienced violence and damage to property on more than one of our campuses. These unfortunate events prevent students who do not wish to participate in the strike action from accessing their classes.
The resolutions from our most recent engagement with the Institutional SRC are reflected below:
|Demands||IMC Response and Decisions|
|Clearance of students for registration||IMC approved that: Students that have confirmed funding for 2020 and who are eligible for NSFAS in 2021 are to be cleared to register, provided with accommodation, and be given all the allowances.|
|FTENS registered through Waivered Registration Fees Arrangement must be given accommodation on Campus||For Campuses that have University Owned Residences, IMC approved that: 50% of available space in University-owned residences to be set aside to assist FTENS who are not funded but registered through Council approved Waivered Registration Fees Arrangement. For Campuses that do not have University-owned Residences, IMC resolved that: Students should study from home in the interim and be provided with devices and study material saved on USBs to make it possible for them to learn from home whilst the University is looking for other sources of funding. The CFO should assess the financial implications, informed by the number of unfunded FTENs, quantified per Campus. Advancement Office should draft a proposal to request funding from potential sponsors to assist this group. The proposal should be ready by the 1st of May 2021, and weekly updates on progress are presented to IMC. Once funding is secured, this group will be allocated in POSAs immediately|
|Book Allowance||IMC response is that: The University will comply with DHET guidelines in terms of a two-year payment. The request by students for deduction of monies to repay laptop according to make/model and price will be implemented as follows: a) The University will charge the actual cost not exceeding R6450 per laptop. b) If the cost is more than R6450, the University will carry the difference. c) Procurement to provide prices for laptops and students be charged the actual price.|
|Release of Certificates||IMC noted and resolved that: A reconciliation of outstanding amounts due to and from NSFAS has been completed. WSU is waiting for NSFAS’s feedback on the reconciliation submitted. Certificates will be released immediately after NSFAS approves claims. A Task Team inclusive of students should be formed so that it can liaise with NSFAS.|
|NSFAS Appeals||IMC notes that: Students are currently allowed by NSFAS to use the 2020 forms. Therefore, students are encouraged to continue using this opportunity to mitigate their financial challenges.|
|NHC Students Placed in N+2 by NFSA||IMC noted and resolved that: Students enrolled for National Diploma programmes in 2021 for the first time are no longer funded by NSFAS (this is NFSAS decision as the Funder). WSU multi-stakeholder team has engaged NSFAS on this decision and requested it to be reviewed given the academic structure of NHC articulating to National Diploma programmes. WSU is waiting for NSFAS and DHET’s new decision. However, this group of students is allowed to register in 2021 under the ‘exceptional cases’ arrangement but will not receive accommodation and allowances|
|PGCE students to be funded inclusive of all allowances||IMC resolved that: ‘Special cases’ funding structure does not include all allowances but only offers access, and this arrangement stands as the University cannot afford full funding as demanded by students.|
|2. Registration matters|
|Admission statuses changing to ‘Not Admitted’.||IMC explains and resolved that: Admitted prospective students that do not register despite having been given more than a month to register – if they still fail to register after being given extra 48 hours – will be removed from the system. The 48hrs directive stands as it allows other prospective students to be admitted and register as WSU students.|
|Contact Graduation Ceremonies||IMC affirms: Hybrid graduation must comply with COVID-19 Alert Risk Level, rules, and requirements. In the main, this is about saving lives. Livestreaming quality will be improved upon to give graduates an aesthetically pleasant graduation ceremony. Calling out of names by Deans will be implemented with the graduate’s image displayed on the screen. Dedicated Campus graduation day is confirmed for all four Campuses|
|3. Academic matter|
|Published timetable with no Name of Lecturers||IMC resolved and affirmed that: Once subject or module allocation is confirmed, names must be inserted in the timetable for students to know their lecturer. Learning and teaching continue to be offered through multi-modal platforms – such as online and/or contact.|
|FTENS Orientation||IMC resolved that: Orientation must take a hybrid approach. Where there is contact – COVID-19 Health Protocols must be observed. Data and laptops must be attended to at the Campus level efficiently and effectively as the means to do so is available and must be deployed at that level. Academic departments must monitor the learning and teaching needs of WSU FTENS and always give guidance and support for success.|
|Training needs for FTENS||IMC resolved that: Orientation for FTENS must include WiSeUp, and learning must include virtual platforms.|
|4. Residence matters|
|De-accredited rooms in establishments ranked – A & B as per the accreditation ranking||IMC resolved that: De-accredited rooms in establishments ranked A & B must be reinstated. Students who stayed in these de-accredited rooms in 2020 should be given preferential treatment and allowed to go back to these rooms if they so wish. Establishments ranked C & D must fix identified shortcomings stated in the accreditation assessment report.|
|Senior students that stay in POSAs must be given first preference in single rooms’ allocation||IMC resolved that: This demand must apply where single rooms are available.|
|Iphulo room placement must not only be confined to Medical students||IMC resolved that: To comply with accreditation requirements, medical students must be given first preference at Iphulo. This first preference must not exclude other programmes where feasible. The Campus must implement and manage the principle of inclusive accommodation.|
|Building of Ubuhlanti inside Campus premises||IMC resolved that: The demand is reasonable and approved; however, it needs details on how it will be resourced and managed to be consistent with other policies that govern student life and well-being. The Campus must present a concrete, holistic plan inclusive of student life and extramural activities. There must be a Campus Task Team that includes students to work on this plan at the inception stage.|
|Registration and residence data interphase for room allocation||IMC resolved that: Technical glitches will be sorted to enable students to register and simultaneously allocated rooms seamlessly online.|
|Student Village – disappointment on slow renovation and improvements||IMC confirmed that: A company to deal with urgent maintenance matters at Student Village (B/wroth Campus) has been appointed. The company has established a site and started working. The company is appointed to fix all building defects – including windows, doors, carpet, ceiling, electricity, plumbing, curtaining, door locks, painting, furniture repairs, roof leaks etc.|
While we have attended most student demands, management cannot disregard rules and processes issued by the State and state funders. In this regard, the Institutional Management Committee is unable to concede on the following student demands and considers its position non-negotiable:
- The demand for mass public graduation cannot be entertained under current COVD-19 regulations. The University will not place itself in a position where it flagrantly disregards government regulations and therein threatens lives on the edge of a third wave. However, we have presented the Institutional SRC with a hybrid model for graduation (detailed above), to which they have expressed discomfort.
- Payment for second-hand laptops: the University is not in a financial situation to re-purchase laptops it issued to students in 2020 under arrangements made in that regard. It is a simple matter of economics – the University cannot afford to purchase second-hand goods and has no internal policy framework to regulate the same. If our hands are forced in this regard, other services will be affected, and we will be unable to extend our support to other crucial student support initiatives. We reiterate that we are a multi-modal institution and all students require a digital device to participate meaningfully in their teaching and learning.
In light of the events taking place on our campuses, the University has no other choice but to close the University forthwith until further notice. We remain open to engage with student leadership and apologize to those members of our community who do not support the student protest action. We remain committed to ensuring quality education for all.
During this period, the University will continue with its academic project online using a multi-modal approach for which we are geared. Those staff members who have the tools of the trade can continue to work from home.
Management condemns the damage to public and university property and the attacks on its staff members.