File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng
File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

SRC slams Wits proposal to bar unvaccinated students as anti-poor

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Oct 14, 2021

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Johannesburg - Wits University is considering a mandatory vaccination policy proposal which will see only vaccinated staff and students freely allowed to access the university, barring unvaccinated students from residences, common areas and from attending graduations.

Under the proposals contained in the Wits mandatory vaccination framework, unvaccinated students and staff will also be required to produce a negative Covid-19 PCR test every week - at their own cost.

Vaccinated students will have to produce their digital vaccine passports, which will be linked to their University access cards.

The mandatory vaccination proposal has raised the ire of the Wits SRC which described the policy as anti-poor. Comments on the proposal document closed this week.

The policy requires all university staff, students and service providers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus before accessing the building, with exceptions only for students who are Under 18 and those who have a medical exemption as prescribed by a medical practitioner. The university said it could conduct further medical assessments if it was so required.

Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel said the majority of the institution’s community were in favour of vaccinations and many had already received their shots against the virus.

“Most people would want to get vaccinated and return to campus as soon as possible. In fact, Wits welcomed 4 000 students this year who requested to return to campus and residences on humanitarian grounds, as many of these students do not have access to adequate services and facilities or conducive learning environments at home,” Patel said.

“We would thus argue that getting vaccinated and returning to campus is beneficial to students, especially those who are disadvantaged.”

Wits SRC Secretary General Nhlonipho Nxumalo said the student body rejected the policy.

“We reject the social isolation of students and workers after being required to prove that they are not infected through screening and weekly coronavirus test with a mask on to further be isolated by not being allowed in social spaces or gatherings such as attending in person graduations,” said Nxumalo.

“The institution continues to make access to the premises a privilege to the rich by all means necessary. we would like to emphasise that we reject any exclusions That targets the poor, that isolate individuals.”

Without saying whether the SRC was in support of vaccinations or not, Nxumalo said it was defending the Constitutional rights of staff and students who did not wish to be immunised.

Patel said the university would consider submissions made by all stakeholders including the SRC, the Postgraduate Students Association, student clubs and societies, residence formations, organised labour, staff and students.

“All comments and inputs will be considered as may be appropriate and the framework has and will continue to serve before the appropriate University committees – including the University’s Senate and Council,” said Patel.


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