Students from the independent #FeesMustFall movement on Monday (11/01/2016) tried to disrupt the first day of registration at Wits University by preventing the fee office from opening.
Registration is taking place on West Campus but last year’s students cannot pay outstanding debts as the fees office is closed. This prevents them from registering or enquiring if they have a place on the waiting list.
Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said the university announced it was not requiring upfront registration fees at the end of January. Instead‚ students who could not afford to register had to pay R9000 by the end of March or approach the university for assistance.
Despite this concession‚ students from #FeesMustFall intend to continue their protest in Wits Senate House‚ renamed Solomon Mahlangu House‚ with spokesperson for the movement Fatima Moutloatse saying: “The ultimate goal of the protest was free education”.
She said they wanted students who owed outstanding fees from last year to be permitted to register.
“In 1994‚ government promised us access to free education. It is 22 years later and this has not happened. Education must not be seen as a commodity.”
The Wits SRC was not visible at the protest‚ and is a separate group from the #FeesMustFall group. The SRC and #FeesMustFall group representatives were to meet later on Monday.
One student who needed to access the fees office to find out if she had a place at the university‚ as she is on a waiting list‚ was furious. The student‚ who asked not to be named‚ said she was being denied access to education by protesting students. “How can I get education if they stop me?”
“I think it is selfish and inconsiderate‚” she said. “I want to come to Wits and learn.”
A father‚ Augustine Magik‚ who had taken the day off work to help his daughter register‚ said the closure of the fee office was very stressful. “I have taken the day off work. Who is going to give me another day off work?”
Wits students without outstanding debt can register online‚ but one student said she was having difficulty online and needed to access the fees office‚ which remains closed.