Wits University residences will not meet the significantly increased demand for accommodation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wits University residences will not be operating at full capacity when they welcome students back for the 2021 academic year in March. The university took this decision in order to curb the spread of covid-19 on its campuses.

The director of campus housing and residence life (CHRL), Basil Mugwena, says that although campus housing has seen a significant increase in the number of students seeking to live on campus compared to previous years, Wits residences must adhere to university protocols and limit student numbers at residences.

“[Students] will be accommodated in single-occupancy rooms, meaning no sharing of rooms. This therefore means that the university residences will not operate at 100% capacity,” Mugwena told Wits Vuvuzela.

Furthermore, registration for housing will now take place online to avoid long queues which can be transmission hotspots for the virus.

“Residence students will be emailed placement confirmation and will simply check in once they have completed all processes,” Mugwena said, and added that students will only be allowed to return to residences once they have received an invite from their academic faculty.

Wits SRC all residence sub-council chairperson Buhle Geleba said that she was concerned that, as in past registration periods, the online registration for residence process may present “major challenges” for students which may leave them displaced.

Geleba told Wits Vuvuzela, “We always know that there will be an accommodation crisis which is something that we’ve seen over the years. Further, the barrier of funding at such a time becomes problematic for students as well.”

She urged university structures to be patient with students and to be mindful of the challenges that may arise.

“We expect CHRL and central accommodation to be as helpful as possible towards students. If needs be, the registration period [should] be extended for those who have faced [problems],” Geleba said.

While acknowledging that there will be limited bed space in Wits residences as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic, she said the university should prioritise students who come from homes that are not conducive for learning.

“We are hoping that through the office of student affairs and CHRL, students living in unfavourable conditions are identified and brought back into residence life so that they are able to work in an environment that assists them to achieve academically,” Geleba said.

According to Mugwena, although residences have implemented university protocol for covid-19, it remains the individual’s responsibility to ensure their own safety and that of others.

FEATURED IMAGE: One of the residences on West Campus, Barnato Hall. Photo: File