Academic activity is the primary purpose of University life; we left high school, entered into tertiary education and took on the journey of pursuing excellence, knowledge and skills meant to qualify us into the working space and society. The true purpose of this is to become socially responsible in advancing the state of our communities, our country, our society and our world.
As a member of the Wits SRC my colleagues and I made it our business to take on the
responsibility of fighting against a system of denials, a system that through racial and economic bias excludes so many talented young minds from having a shot at a different reality, a reality that spits in the face of the status quo as we know it- a status quo that says “being intelligent is not good enough if you are poor and if you are black”.
This year had it’s challenges but the great thing about it was how I didn’t face them alone. I had a team of great and young minds , from every faculty found on campus, who sacrificed their December and January holidays to serve students.
These young men and women were involved directly in the activity and functioning of the SRC as a whole and more so the work of the Deputy President and Academic officer,myself.
Together we had early mornings and late nights which began in November 2016 were we left for home , on Christmas eve traveling from Johannesburg to the Eastern Cape , KZN and broader South Africa. And only to come back on January 2 , 2017. To prepare an extended service to our students.
The theme of my office for the year was ” You’ve been assigned this mountain , to show others it can be moved“. As a collective we were able to face the many metaphors of mountains university students encounter. Who coming fro differing backgrounds were welcomed by us and assisted in their orientation around campus. Second to this was the work of my office to assisted students who were academically excluded where we assisted in person and telephonically.
Some of the work done in my office during my term as Deputy President and Academic Officer included ;
- Academic Exclusion where students who failed to meet the minimum requirement , and were disqualified from continuing with her academics , had to appeal their outcomes through faculty based processes ) This time saw over 2747 students facing exclusions and a return rate of over 90% of those students , a great and excellent victory for our office.
- Consults with the readmitted students to check their progress and performance 9 because we became aware that what informs ones marks is not just activity in the class room and your mark , but external and internal factors that range from family problems , finances , mental health, being victims of crime , and inability to cope/comprehend or engage in the classroom among other matters.
- Stationery drive ( Where we collected money and mostly stationery items for students ahead of the exam session and packed items including pens exam pads highlighters financial calculators sticky notes sweets and energy drinks in a see through carry folder)
- Flight offices in all of our campuses bringing mobile offices to students at their respective campuses
- #WOMENINACADEMIA campaign where we had first a demonstration outside the Wits Great Hall during the month of August to fight for greater transformation of our university and a provision of greater access to women to take on senior positions in the management and teaching at Wits University. The campaign was followed by a luncheon where we had students from Park Town Girls’ High , Simphiwe Dana , Kgomotso Christopher , Khadija Patel and Zuki Mthimunye and Lindiwe Manyika.
- Wits SRC Women in Academia Wits SRC Women In Academia article
- A collection of sanitary towels in response to the basic needs of women which were not being accommodated for.
- Policy work which was addressed at school faculty and senate and council level which addressed ; The performance of student leaders in an Institution of Higher learning. The scrapping of evening classes to enable students who travel to go home timely. The concerns raised by students in the faculty of Health Science regarding their exams , marking systems and general treatment in the faculty. The unequal treatment of students , which many suggested was a result of class and racial differences , a subject matter that came from the Engineering Faculty with Student X
- An advisory role in the SRC Adopt A First Year Campaign which functions as an intimate platform for new students to be partnered with older students who are positioned to help and advise them around the university space
- A continuous fight for video lectures which had been launched in the faculty of Science.Improved standardized marking criteria in all faculties. Summer/Winter schools. An extended exam break ( 14 days prior to writing) SMS system to be sent to students who were facing academic exclusions/risks. Greater communication of University rules regarding academic activity. Extension of courses offered through Wits Plus to accommodate more so students who were excluded or short of a few points to graduate.
- The wavering of student debt below 15K for students who were eligible to graduate but were owing the university. And the writing down of a legitimate and formal letter from the University Registrar to students who qualified t graduate but owed more money , so as to be able to present to prospective employers for consideration.
These 11 points are but some of the work that the Deputy President and Academics office , were successful in actualizing together with the Wits SRC and in some starting the process on many structural and policy related issues, for the benefit of students.
As the Wits SRC we believe , academic success is a journey , the question of ; ” Will we all get there is non-negotiable. but the HOW remains a collective responsibility I urge both the Wits community and members of society , to take up with urgency.
A big thank you to the student community. The progressive youth alliance. Every Nation Wits. My pastor Carol Mkhize , my discipler Musa Cindi , Keletso Mpisane , Mina Mkhize , my vent and fight friend sister and everything outside the English language , Nontobeko Nkosi , you are a great leader and it all began with your heart, I don’t think survival would’ve been possible without you , thank you ; students for trusting the SRC with your lives. Thank you ; My Freshers , guys you’ve been there since day 1 , the student community has been left with greater leaders , thank you friends , colleagues , comrades members of the university staff in all varied positions.
Good luck to the newly elected Wits SRC may your efforts together with other student leaders in CSOs , school councils , political organisations etc, never seize to prioritize the plight of students on campus and remember , you’ve been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved!