Wits SRC wants free on-campus Covid-19 tests for students who don't want to vaccinate

SRC president laments financial implications of proposed weekly Covid-19 tests, saying NSFAS beneficiaries and cleaners cannot afford to travel to clinics

15 October 2021 - 14:58
By Cebelihle Bhengu
The #Wits100 challenge, a call for alumni to give back to the university ahead of its centenary next year, has already raised R1.5m from a single donor. File photo.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu The #Wits100 challenge, a call for alumni to give back to the university ahead of its centenary next year, has already raised R1.5m from a single donor. File photo.

The Wits University student representative council (SRC) will today make formal submissions to the institution over mandatory vaccinations for students and staff. 

Last week, the university proposed a mandatory vaccine framework that will require students and staff who choose not to vaccinate to get weekly Covid-19 tests, whether they show symptoms or not. The tests will be done at their own cost. 

Speaking to TimesLIVE on Friday, SRC president Nhlonipho Nxumalo lamented the financial implications of such a decision, saying students, particularly NSFAS beneficiaries, and cleaners cannot afford to travel to local clinics to get tested. 

“We are given a choice on paper but in practicality, we don't have a choice ... We don't have a clinic at Braamfontein. A student who wants to do a test has to go to Hillbrow or Parktown. A student who gets R1,500 from NSFAS has to travel to and from Parktown — it's impractical, especially for a poor black child,” said Nxumalo.

The council has proposed that the university provide free weekly tests for students who don't want to vaccinate. 

A statement issued by the council via social media on Monday garnered backlash from those who accused it of being anti-vaxxers.

Nxumalo says this is simply not true. The council, she says, is pro-choice.

“People have taken it out of context. We are not against people vaccinating, we are not trying to push a certain narrative that people must not vaccinate. The president of the SRC publicly vaccinated ... We do encourage people to go and vaccinate, the SRC is not anti-vaxxers. We are anti-procedures that are trying to indirectly force people to vaccinate,” said Nxumalo.

She called on the university to educate the students on the vaccine.