Accommodation woes continue

The start of a new academic year invariably means the beginning of new chapter for most of us, and for first years, the beginning of a totally different book. Thinking back (very far) to my first year, nothing could match the excitement of not wearing school uniform and being able to chew gum in class. And then when they told me lectures were not compulsory! It was the best of times.

However for many first years the excitement of making it into Wits is short-lived as the woes of trying to find accommodation set in. The sad reality is that Wits simply does not have the capacity to accommodate every student. The accommodation office has repeatedly said that they are doing the best they can with what they have. But is it enough?

Surely an institution as world class as Wits University should be able to deal with this recurring problem. Wits Vuvuzela has religiously reported on accommodation problems at the beginning of each year. Could the elusive solution be as simple as building more residences? But the university did build another residence: Wits Junction in Parktown.

Unfortunately, this newly erected residence fast became known as a place for the elite where few students could afford the residence’s high annual fees ranging from R45000- R50000. Is it any wonder that in its first year of operating Junction only managed to fill only 30% of the spaces available?

The queues outside the accommodations office every year are filled with desperate students and parents and this is testament that we are doing things wrong. Students are then forced into the private accommodation system in Braamfontein that has its own long arm of problems.

On Page 1 we report on students from Central Johannesburg College who were unceremoniously kicked out of their residence in an Aengus Property building in Braamfontein because their financial aid was too little to cover them for the year.  The students’ beds were thrown out of the building, while the students sang resistance songs and scuffled with the muscled bouncers. The scene resembled something out of the forced removals of the 1950s.

The new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, has said while Wits is a world class institution it must service our country by becoming a symbol of hope for aspiring poor students. “We must be able to send a symbolic message that we believe in this country and we are prepared to address the challenges of all of our people, poor and rich,” said Habib.

It is a great sentiment, however, when we present Wits as the land of milk and honey, a place where you can change your life through quality education and still cannot provide our students with a roof over their heads, we do the country a great disservice. And as Professor Habib puts it, when the poor have no hope the society will burn.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February 2013

Wonder woman lends helping hand to fellow student

A Witsie gave up her dream of buying an iPad to assist a fellow student with his residence fees.

Nandi Masemula, an honours student in BSc archaeology, gave Henry Masuko R1050 to pay the accommodation office before he moved into South Point residence.

Henry Masuko, who moved into South Point on Tuesday, said Masemula made his dream of staying at res a reality.

“I cannot describe how grateful I am for such a wonderful woman” he said

Masemula, who works part time at the Wits archaeology department, saved all the money she earns to buy an iPad.

She decided that helping the needy is more important than an Ipad. “The only way we can succeed is by helping one another, if we have the means to,” she said.

Last week, Vuvuzela wrote an article about Masuko, who received a National Financial Aid Scheme package which covers both his tuition and residence fee but not the money to confirm his res room.

The first year BA Education student could not move into res without paying the confirmation money, so he had to share a flat with four people in “unbearable” conditions at Hillbrow.

He said the conditions were “unbearable” because he didn’t have a study table or a study room. The people he shared the flat with have children who made a noise while he was studying.

Masemula learned to help those who are less fortunate from her parents, who always aid the needy.

She wants Masuko to have one less thing to worry about in order to study hard and get his degree, she said.