Wits SRC rejects mandatory vaccination
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Johannesburg – The Wits University Students' Representative Council (SRC) has rejected the institution’s proposal to make vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory.
The Wits University SRC issued a statement on Monday evening rejecting forced vaccination, after the institution’s senior executive team released a proposed mandatory vaccination framework on Friday.
The framework was shared with staff, students, senior managers, organised labour and other constituencies for comment by Monday, Wits University spokesperson Shirona Patel said.
“Wits is a contact teaching university and the mandatory vaccination of staff and students will enable optimal access, the holistic delivery of the teaching and learning programme, and research to continue.
’’A mandatory vaccination policy protects the health and safety of the university community, members of the public, and advances the public good,” the university said in the framework.
Among other things, the framework states that staff and students will be required to produce their digital vaccine passport or vaccination cards, which will be linked to their access cards to enable them to enter the university premises. Exemptions include students under the age of 18 and staff or students exempted on medical grounds.
The framework also states that students and staff who elect not to be vaccinated on constitutional grounds will be required to undertake weekly testing (at their own cost) for Sars-CoV-2 infection irrespective of whether they have Covid-19 symptoms or not, along with daily health screening, and must always wear a N95 mask.
In addition, these students will not be allowed into common areas where social engagements take place, to stay in Wits residences and to attend in-person graduation ceremonies. These staff members will also not be allowed into common areas where social engagements take place and may not refuse to return to work on account of not being vaccinated.
The SRC has rejected the framework on the basis that it imposes mandatory vaccination to the poor and working class as they are required to pay for the Sars-CoV-2 test and failure to do so will result in individuals not having access to the premises.
“Students and staff members who do not have the capital to pay for these weekly tests will either miss activities they must perform or succumb to the vaccination against their will. This then makes the constitutional freedom of choice exclusive to the rich,” SRC secretary-general Nhlonipho Nxumalo wrote in the statement.
The SRC added that it rejected the social isolation of students and workers after being required to prove they are not infected through screening and weekly testing with their masks on to be further isolated by not being allowed in social spaces or gatherings such as graduations.
“The institution continues to make access to its premises a privilege to the rich by all means necessary, with every chance they get. We would like to emphasise that we reject any exclusions that target the poor, that isolate individuals,” the SRC said.
The university spokesperson said the SRC was constituted recently and confirmed that the university had seen the statement by the SRC on Twitter on Monday night.
“Once all inputs are received and considered, the draft policy will serve before the university’s relevant committees, before the final policy is approved by Council at its last meeting this year,” Patel said.