Students are expected to spend a lot of their time in the university library – but they’re not supposed to sleep there.

Two Wits students have no alternative. They sleep in the library because they have no other accommodation and can’t afford to find a place to stay.

To get a sense of how they live, Vuvuzela spent a night with these students.

Let’s call them Tony and Pierce as they are afraid of repercussions.

Tony is from Lesotho and does not qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Pierce is from Kwa-Zulu Natal and has had his application to NSFAS denied.

Pierce says the stringent application process for NSFAS hindered him from getting financial aid. NSFAS requires numerous affidavits.

Whenever he went to them his application would be denied because of the required information.

Despite trouble with his accommodation, Tony is adamant about getting his degree but as an honours student he feels the added stress levels.

“I want my degree – it is my dream,” Tony said.

Tony and Pierce were not dishevelled or unkempt.

Pierce looked prim and proper wearing formal shoes, black pants, a golf shirt and a black suit top.

When asked about his neat appearance he said; “Those that have, they look like they don’t have and those who don’t have look like they do have.”

These students often wear the same clothes twice and rely on friends for showers.

On the night Vuvuzela was with them, dinner for these students was two loaves of bread, five slices of ham and one 2-litre of brand cola.

The remainder of this food would be kept for breakfast the next morning.

On other occasions these students attend various events at Wits for food.

While studying in the library these students doze off to sleep. Sometimes they put chairs together to create a makeshift hammock. Tony said they changed libraries often so Campus Control could not disturb or find them.

When they were caught they were forced to sleep under the trees.

Both students do not seem upset by their situation. Tony said they are kept going by the motto “no pain, no gain”.

A report by the Department of Education and Training earlier this year revealed a shortage of student housing in universities.

In 2010, Wits could only house 15% of its students. The report said universities should aim to house 80% of students.

Published in Vuvuzela Print Edition, 13 April 2012