Students still without accommodation half way into the academic year.

A group of Wits University students have formed a task team to tackle the ongoing student accommodation crisis at the institution. The group, consisting of students who were given emergency accommodation at the beginning of the year, have committed themselves to finding a solution for all students still without accommodation.

Kyle Maoko, deputy chairperson of the task team, explained, “Students who are still on the accommodation list at the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) are not helped and unaccommodated.”

Kamogelo Chauke, chairperson of the team, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “According to the number that was given to our task team members at the beginning of June when we sent them to the WCCO to find out … there were 450 students on the waiting list.”

Wits University Dean of Students, Jerome September, told Wits Vuvuzela that not all the students who required accommodation could be assisted at the beginning of the year due to capacity constraints. According to him there are 50 students still on the waiting list.

Wits Vuvuzela was unable to establish where the students without accommodation are sleeping, but according to Chauke, “There is alarmingly a lot of students still sleeping in libraries, labs and train stations.”

Thandi Mlotshwa* is one of the students who was placed on the waiting list. She first came to Wits in 2016 but after too many financial difficulties and a lack of accommodation close to campus she had to drop out because she had missed too many classes. She resumed her studies this year but was placed on the waiting list in April while she still lived at home in Soweto and continued to miss classes when she could not afford to travel to Wits.

According to Mlotshwa, when she was placed on the waiting list it already had over 200 students on it.

Chauke explained that students have been dealt with on a needs basis but most students still find themselves in the same position they were in at the beginning of the year. He says accommodation is a “national crisis”.

SRC Transformation Officer, Mmeli Gebashe, has been working closely with the task team. He says they will be speaking to other residences to see how many rooms can be made available for the remainder of the students on the WCCO list. He said, “We’re working on finding a permanent solution.”

September added, “The university is constantly bidding for funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training to build more residences and to extend the capacity of current residences. Additionally, the university is also in constant dialogue with the city, province and private providers to address this ongoing challenge.”

*Names have been changed

FEATURED IMAGE: Members of the task team and SRC. From left to right: Dimpho Kgwete (task team member), Mmeli Gebashe (SRC Transformation Officer), Kamogelo Chauke (task team chairperson), Boikanyo Madisha (task team member). Photo: Sanet Oberholzer