Dear Campus Community,
The announcement by President Zuma regarding the 0% increase for 2016 was communicated on Friday and has since received widespread media attention. We would like to congratulate the students of UWC and all other universities for igniting critical conversations both nationally and internationally. In general there has also been widespread appreciation expressed for the high level of discipline displayed by protesting students. I am hopeful that all the role-players within the higher education sector will be able to show the required leadership and commitment to find long-term solutions to enable us to make progress in ensuring that equitable and affordable access for students is not a pipe-dream. This will not be an easy task financially, especially for historically disadvantaged universities who do not have the level of reserves and endowments to be able to absorb ongoing underfunding by Government. As an institution we now need to grapple with the implications of the 0% fee increase on our own financial situation in 2016, as some universities are required to co-fund the shortfall arising from this decision. But, as an institution we remain committed to transformation and improving the lives of people from all walks of life. To bring about this much needed change in our society, there are few ways as powerful as investing in education.
While the campus has been fairly quiet since the 0% announcement, I have given an undertaking to provide regular updates.
As reported in earlier campus community notices, sent out via sms’s, reported on UWC’s website and all our social media platforms, the final exams have been postponed by a week and are now scheduled to start on Monday, 2 November 2015.
Please note that UWC will reopen tomorrow (Monday, 26 October 2015) as stated in our previous communication.
Earlier today the Student Representative Council issued a statement saying that: “The SRC urges all students to utilise this time to focus and prepare for their final examinations. In that sense, students are discouraged from participating in any protest that may seek to derail their preparation for the upcoming examination.” We fully respect our formally elected student governance structure and support them in this call. We do, however, recognise that not all student political organisations are currently in agreement regarding the way forward and that there are opposing ideas emerging. We respect the right of individual groupings to disagree and to voice and demonstrate this in different ways. While we respect the right to demonstrate peacefully we have been made aware of messages going out to students forewarning them of potential risks if they do not participate in planned demonstrations tomorrow. In saying this, we do not support any forms of intimidation or victimisation by any grouping(s) on campus.
You might also be interested to know that a group of UWC academics issued a statement this afternoon, expressing a much more nuanced perspective on the broader societal issues underlying the protest actions.
I want to urge all students to now concentrate on your exam preparation. The national discussions that were started this week are far from over, and the full implications of the 0% increase will unfold in the weeks ahead. The national process of working towards solutions is only starting now. The issues being raised are critical and important, but let us please not lose sight of the fact that it is equally important for students to complete their examinations this year without further interruption.
I have asked all Deans and Executive members to ensure that academics and professional support colleagues are available for student enquiries over the next week. I would also like to encourage students who are in need of counselling services to make use of the Therapeutic Services offered through the Centre for Student Support Services. You are welcome to visit their offices or contact them at 021 959 2299.
As agreed in the meeting held with students in the Student Centre on Friday 23 October 2015, I will await the memorandum of the SRC outlining student grievances. The University’s Executive Management is fully aware of the fact that students have other concerns in addition to the 0% fee increase and we are committed to continue to engage with students on these matters.
Following the vandalism, looting and robbery of some of our service providers’ stock and earnings by a group of opportunists who were attempting to devalue an important national student campaign, the SRC and Central Housing Committee (CHC) asked the University to close the dining halls, in support of the national shutdown. The University management, SRC and CHC took the necessary action to ensure that residence and opidan students were assisted with food parcels and drinks.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank UWC staff members, alumni, volunteers from the community, counsellors, senior students and members of the public for their donations and in making our support responses even more efficient. Thank you also to our doctors, medics and other staff members who have been on the ground to ensure that students in need of medical attention were taken care of.
To students, I would like to wish you all the best with your exam preparation.
Rector and Vice-Chancellor