Wits University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib says he is worried about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the finances of universities. He says the ability of the so-called missing middle students to pay fees may be severely affected at this time.
The missing middle refers to students who are too poor to afford university fees, but not poor enough to qualify for government funding.
Habib’s concern comes ahead of Youth Day on which youth issues will be under the spotlight.
“If that is going to increase unemployment, it is going to make it very very difficult for the fee-paying students to continue paying fees in the coming year. And so, while WITS is okay for now, but if the debt goes up like it has been going up for the last three or four years, then we are heading for a major financial implosion in universities. But we are also hearing rumours about the state struggling to have money to meet its own obligations and if we are going to be cutting fees and subsidies, we are going to be in serious trouble,” Habib says.
In the video below, Wits University Council reacts to readiness for university to resume studies amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
Emergency COVID-19 fund

The University of Cape Town (UCT) announced in April that it had set up an emergency fund to assist in the fight against the virus and its impact on the university. University Spokesperson, Elijah Moholola, said any amount by members of the UCT community, including alumni, staff and students will go a long way towards assisting the university in adjusting to these extraordinary times.

“Donations can be made to a specific COVID-19 fund or online. UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng will donate 20% of her salary to the fund for a three-month period.”

Moholola said UCT Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng donates 10% of her monthly salary to the Mamokgethi Phakeng Scholarship Fund, which she set up when she took office at UCT in July 2018.