PhD student kills himself after failing to register for academic year after study permit expires

The campus of the University of the Witwatersrand.

  • A Zimbabwean PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand killed himself over the weekend after failing to register for his academic year.
  • Philippe ChumaThe study permit expired at the end of January.
  • The university said it was assisting in the repatriation of his body to Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean doctoral candidate, who was unable to register for the academic year at the University of the Witwatersrand because his study permit had expired, committed suicide last weekend, the report said. university.

Wits said Philip Chuma – described as a dedicated doctoral student at the School of Education for the past five years – could not enroll for the 2022 academic year.

Chuma’s study permit expired at the end of January 2022 and he was in regular contact with the Home Office to process his documentation.

Wits spokeswoman Shirona Patel told News24 the university is saddened by her death.

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“By law, the university cannot enroll students from other countries without a valid study permit. There have been no policy changes regarding international students in recent years, and the university has registered successfully 2,020 international students in 2022.

“Through its International Office, the university provides dedicated support to international students, and while we do our best to facilitate interaction between students, staff and home affairs, we cannot influence the results of the ministries,” she said.

According to department spokesperson Siya Qoza, they would need the passport or ID number to accurately respond to Chuma’s situation.


Patel said Chuma was doing her PhD on the transition of newly qualified teachers into their first teaching position in Zimbabwean schools.

“He had recently completed his data analysis chapters and was busy interpreting his findings. He recently presented parts of his work at two international conferences and was due to submit his doctoral work for consideration later this year,” said she added.

The university said it was assisting in the repatriation of Chuma’s body to Zimbabwe.

In November 2021, the Cabinet took the decision not to renew the Zimbabwean exemption permits. About 182,000 Zimbabweans hold permits. They had 12 months to apply to migrate to other permit regimes suited to their personal situation.

The decision to cancel the permit angered Zimbabweans and rights groups who took the government to court, but the result was unsuccessful.

Civil rights groups have argued that it would be impossible for current permit holders to successfully apply for other permits.

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