Despite mounting reluctance from students and student organisations, universities across the country are steadfast in implementing the Covid-19 mandatory vaccination policies which prohibit students from entering campuses without producing proof of vaccination.
Talks of the mandatory vaccination policy at universities have been continuing since the start of the second semester last year. The matter was approved by the various university councils. It was announced that it would be effected at the start of the 2022 academic year.
Institutions such as Rhodes University, University of Cape Town, University of Free State, University of the Witwatersrand, Durban University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape are among the universities that have these mandatory vaccination policies.
The Durban University of Technology explained that it have given students three options:
1. For each member of the DUT community to access any of the DUT campuses, they must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
2. If a member of the DUT community does not wish to vaccinate, they must continue with online activities and services. If they are required to be on campus, they must take a Covid-19 PCR test 48 hours before being on campus and that test result must be negative. The individuals concerned must payment for their PCR tests.
3. If a member of the DUT community refuses to be fully vaccinated and to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test result when they may be required to be on campus, then they must continue with online based activities and services; in which case, should there be practical sessions, laboratory sessions and other academic and non-academic work that requires physical attendance, the principles referred to above shall apply, including facing the consequences of the individual choices.
The DUT SRC branch chairperson Nkululeko Mzobe said the SRC was not against vaccination but did not agree with the students being forced to vaccinate.
“They have a right and they are entitled to say yes or no to the vaccine. Also, we argue that the university council did not wait for the National Coronavirus Command Council to implement mandatory vaccination in higher institutions but it took the decision on their own,” he said.
Mzobe explained that some students have registered, however, the problem was in them being allocated residence by the university.
“Without being fully vaccinated the university denies you access to accommodation but we are still fighting that,” he said.
Meanwhile, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) are still calling for the universities to engage with them regarding the mandatory vaccination policy.
The union’s secretary-general Lukhanyo Daweti said: “We have noted that there are few reactionary universities who want to test the consequences of implementing this policy. As a result we have been in engagements with DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training) and USAF (Universities South Africa) about the situation.”
Three weeks ago, the union threatened to protest should universities continue implementing the mandatory vaccination policy. It also said it would be seeking legal advice on the matter.
“It is our belief as SAUS that intellectual engagements within higher education should be the order of the day, if we fail to convince each other then that should be the only time where parties consider the alternative approach,” Daweti concluded.