Wits SRC & SAUS reject mandatory vaccinations as universities gear up for 2022
Wits SRC president Cebolenkosi Khumalo said the university should have adopted a “pro choice” approach in its decision to implement the mandatory vaccination policy.
The Student Representative Council (SRC) at Wits University remains adamant that mandatory vaccinations for students and staff violate the rights of individuals who do not want to get vaccinated.
Speaking to TimesLIVE on Monday, Wits SRC president Cebolenkosi Khumalo said the university should have adopted a “pro-choice” approach in its decision to implement the mandatory vaccination policy.
“The university is doing the work of the government. The government seems to be very silent on whether university students should be forced to vaccinate or not. That then causes unhealthy relations between management and the SRC, which is anti-mandatory vaccinations,” said Khumalo.
He added that about 30% of the student population was vaccinated. Khumalo said this number will likely increase as the university is expected to make available two vaccination sites on campus.
He said the council had proposed that the university offer free on-campus Covid-19 testing and screening for students who do not want to get vaccinated. However, the institution cited budgetary constraints.
Khumalo said the SRC did not want the university to provide these at the expense of depriving poor students who cannot afford to pay for their studies.
“As the SRC, we want these funds to assist students to learn and register. We know there are issues around financial exclusion. We would want to consolidate the majority of our funds towards ensuring that students are registered and have a place to sleep,” he said.
Wits said in its Covid-19 vaccination policy it would ensure the university provided a safe and holistic learning and teaching environment for students and staff.
It said this would be beneficial for students whose programmes require them to be on campus for research and learning purposes.
“The university plans to reinvigorate the student experience in 2022 by enabling more social engagement on its precincts, through clubs, societies, and residence life, and by opening up more spaces for students to learn and socialise safely on site,” said the university.
Nhlonipho Nxumalo of the SA Union of Students (SAUS) expressed concern over universities that will prevent unvaccinated students from registering to study.
She said the union will meet SRCs from universities across the country, and would consider protest action if institutions refused to ease their terms of vaccination.
“A protest seems to be looming because we do not have any other means to express our grievances than to protest. We have engaged universities and they have rejected our proposals and imposed mandatory vaccinations.
“The universities have created a space where they have a monopoly over how vaccinations work. In council meetings, the SRC is underrepresented. When we discuss certain things, regardless of your argument, the council is outnumbered by the university council that make sure your reasoning is outvoted,” said Nxumalo.
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