Students that were helped by the SRC, are back to squatting on campus as they may no longer stay in ‘common rooms’.
First year BSc student, *Katlego, 19, is back sleeping in the university libraries and showering in the gym, a month after he thought his accommodation woes were over.
At the beginning of March, Katlego was among a group of students who were housed in common rooms in the university residences, as a temporary solution for students without accommodation. The housing project was an initiative by the SRC in collaboration with the dean of students. Those with NFSAS funding were placed at Southpoint in Braamfontein, where many have chosen to stay permanently.
However, there is no permanent solution for those like Katlego who are not funded by NFSAS. This term, they have had to move out of the common rooms and are back squatting in the libraries.
Katlego and *Thabo, 18, an architecture students, are high school friends who both received bursaries for their studies at Wits. Their bursaries only cover tuition fees and as their homes are out of town, both students needed to find accommodation. Their problem, however, is that both are from very poor backgrounds and cannot afford to pay for accommodation.
This is why they were sleeping in the libraries and laboratories in the first place.
“The common rooms did help me,” says Katlego. “I was writing tests at the time, and it gave me a place to rest.”
Both students only receive one meal a day from the food bank behind the Matrix and say the situation is hardest over weekends when they usually go without any food. Katlego says that sometimes friends will give him the R54 return fare to go home for the weekend. He says there is “no hope” in his situation changing.
“If we are chased out of the libraries and labs, we will be officially homeless since they are our homes at the moment.”
These are only two among many students who live day to day and meal to meal with no prospects at this stage of anything changing soon.
They are top achieving students who say they make this sacrifice so that one day their children will not have to endure the same. Their own parents are not aware of the situation they are in.
Katlego says he has applied for assistance at the Student Affairs office, but he may have left it too late because most of the bursaries are already closed.
According to Fasiha Hassan, the secretary general of the SRC, this is part of what the #FeesMustFall movement seeks to solve. “Until we have the realisation of free education, every year the SRC will have to fundraise and face crises,” She said.
*Not their real names.
- Wits Vuvuzela,DASO campaigns for student accomodation, March, 2016.
- Wits Vuvuzela, #AccessCampaign Accommodation crisis temporarily resolved, May, 2016.