A student accommodation crisis looms yet again.
Members of the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) have found themselves sleeping in their offices as they join some of their fellow students affected by the lack of accommodation on campuses countrywide. This is according to the SRC’s International Affairs officer, Wame Sere, who said that about half of the student leadership team of 19 are without a bed and proper shelter two weeks into the academic programme.
“Even as an SRC member I also don’t have accommodation, I have to sleep in my office,” Sere said.
She said that the university’s management had neglected students on the accommodation issue. “It’s a crisis and I feel if a student does not have accommodation they will never study because the issue of accommodation is also linked to lack of food. It’s hard to pass if a student doesn’t have both.”
Speaking at an accommodation imbizo called by Wits EFF in Solomon House yesterday, chairperson Koketso Poho, said that there there are about 190 students who do not have accommodation.
Some of these students hold bursaries but cannot afford the twenty percent down payment to secure a res room. Others are still waiting to find out the outcome of their NFSAS applications.
According to Poho, private residence company SouthPoint had provided 15 beds to the SRC and Dean of Students office during Orientation week (O-week) and the students who occupied those beds were removed from the premises yesterday and are back to sleeping in libraries, computer labs and lavatories.
Jabu Mashinini, senior programme adviser for student governance, said that she is not aware of the matter but acknowledged that SouthPoint offered temporary accommodation during O-week for students who were writing exams and those who were helping out and involved with O-week proceedings.
In a statement released late Monday afternoon, Wits acknowledged the accommodation crisis and said it had received approximately 25 000 residence applications for about 6 200 beds available at the institution.
“We are mindful of the challenges around limited student accommodation, which are national issues, but especially difficult for universities like Wits, located in urban areas. Wits’ residences are full for 2017 and we are aware that some students are still trying to find accommodation.”
“A new residence construction programme is planned but is dependent on funding from government”, said Shirona Patel, Wits University spokesperson. The university is also engaging with the Gauteng Province to see how it can convert existing public facilities in and around Wits to student housing.
“The construction of new student residences is extremely expensive and unaffordable for universities without support from the state. Development and construction costs of new residences, taking into account the provision of study rooms, computer centres, parking requirements, network, telephone, access control and security systems currently average around R 300 000 per student bed,” said Patel.