Residences have been re-opened for students in dire need of accommodation.

Wits University has temporarily re-opened the Witwaters and Esselen Residences in response to hundreds of students who began the academic year with no accommodation. The residences are expected to be closed by the end of the semester.

Last week, the Wits SRC confirmed that about 450 students were homeless and squatting in computer labs, libraries and private accommodation.

Second-year BCom Information Systems student, Tebogo Sekopa, from Fiksburg, Free State is one of those students. “Currently I am travelling from Soweto where I am squatting at a friend’s place. I’ve been waiting for a response from NSFAS. Some days I sleep at the labs.”

According to the SRC, about 160 rooms have been made available for Wits students at the Esselen residence, which was a University residence until the end of 2016. The Deputy Dean of Student Affairs, Jerome September said, “The Wits Reproductive Health Centre (WRHC), kindly agreed to allow the University to accommodate students in the building formerly used as Esselen Residence.” Both the Witwaters and Esselen will accommodate students until the end of the first semester.

“The arrangement is only until the end of the mid-year examinations. We thus encourage students to continue with their own efforts to secure accommodation for 2018,” September said.

Wits SRC President, Orediretse Masebe, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “On Monday we moved in 115 students, that was in the afternoon and in the evening about 100 students moved in. We are still going to move in some more student’s tomorrow [ Tuesday, March 6]. We had a problem with the furniture. We’re still getting door locks and furniture. We’ve emailed South Point and Respublic to ask for more beds.”

Masebe said more beds were needed in order for more students to be accommodated, “The mattresses are an issue. I think we have an entire floor that we’re not sure what is in there.” There are mattresses that we have received from Res Life.”

The SRC President said that the Esselen Residence had single and double rooms with students sharing the double rooms. “We’re just going to keep pushing and using the space that is available,” he said.

On Friday March 2, about 108 students moved into the Witwaters Residence in Parktown which is owned by the Gauteng Department of Health. September told the Wits Vuvuzela that, “108 beds were made available for students. This building is being used by the Department of Health to provide accommodation to nursing students.”

Masebe said the number of students on the accommodated waiting list has decreased since many students received the long awaited application responses for the NSFAS. “The reason why people did not have accommodation is because some of the students had not received NSFAS responses yet so the number of students in need kept on decreasing as NSFAS was responding to applications. Some of them had issues with residence appeals. Then it came to a range of about 300. Some were sponsored through the Sizofunda Ngenkani Fund.” This emergency fund was started by the SRC and the University council to assist students coming from a household with an income of R350 000 or more. The fund is administered by the SRC and the Executive Management Chief financial officer, Prakash Desai and created to cater for the “missing middle” students.

The SRC President said they are going to challenge the University’s plan to close the Witwaters and Esselen Residence by the end of the semester. “That’s a fight we’re still going to have,” he said.

Wits VuvuzelaUp to 450 homeless Wits students squatting in libraries, laboratories and residences, March 1, 2018
Wits Vuvuzela, SRC Emergency Fund in deficit, February 23, 2018
Wits Vuvuzela,Wits creates emergency fund to assist students with historical debt, February 1, 2018