Accommodation woes dog 1st years

Charlotte Chipangura and Zandi Shabalala


THE accommodation problem at Wits has reared its ugly head again.

Wits Vuvuzela witnessed tearful first years sitting dejectedly in Senate House with their luggage. Some of them were accompanied by their parents.

Lunga from Pietermaritzburg was among those that found themselves without a roof over their heads. He and his mother huddled in a corner near International Office with boxes of take-away. Lunga said he got a NSFAS loan, which caters for accommodation as well, but was told all places were full and the accommodation office was not accepting late registration.

Other individuals offering alternative accommodation wanted deposit upfront, which most new students did not have.

Accommodation flyers were being distributed around campus. On average single rooms were going for R1 700 per month, shared rooms for two people going for R 1 500 while apartments were R2 750.

The problem of housing for first year students is a recurring one. While they continue to struggle with accommodation a solution is yet to be found.

An official from the accommodation office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said housing was allocated on a point system. There are four main factors to be considered when an application is processed: geographic location, age, the time of the application and also matric academic results.

He said most students who were being turned away had not applied on time and would not get accommodation. He said those that wanted to register late were often accompanied by their parents for good measure but their efforts would ultimately be futile.

Another accommodation office official said he felt bad for the students who didn’t make it because their parents often pleaded and said Wits was their last hope.

“You really feel for the parents…they say ‘I’m from Limpopo, my child has no other options,’ it’s sad.” said the official.

However, his colleague told Vuvuzela: “I got used to it, you have to keep it moving.”

“We have limited spaces and we can’t offer a space to everyone…but we do give them a list of the private accommodation that accepts even NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] students.” said the colleague.

Lindokuhle Sibanyoni, a LLB 1st year student from Mpumalanga, explained how she had applied for accommodation on time but was put on a waiting list.

When she went to the accommodation office she was told she only had 71 points and needed 79 to qualify for accommodation. Her brother and mother had accompanied her and were now frantically helping find alternative accommodation.

In 2011 Wits Vuvuzela reported that of the 15 000 first years who applied for residence, there was only space for 739 students.

Wits Vuvuzela requested comment from Accommodations Office head Rob Sharman but had not received a response by the time of going to print.

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