SLICE: Conquering ‘The Wits Edge’ from inside

My fourth year of living on campus has allowed me not only to acknowledge and appreciate the privilege I have, but to encourage others to give it a try 

Applications to study at Wits are open and will be closing at the end of September. One of the decisions applicants have to make is where they will live while studying in Braamfontein or Parktown.

While there are factors that are influential for staying off campus, there are factors that are influential for staying on campus, too.

A 2020 academic paper reveals many students prefer to stay off campus because they get to become independent, unrestricted by the rules that come with staying on campus, and get a chance to grow.  

My experience as a resident at West Campus Village – a postgraduate accommodation at Wits – would imply otherwise because living on campus has made my studies and social life easier. Bearing in mind that according to a 2022 Wits report, while the university has approximately 40 000 students, only 2 000 can be accommodated on campus. So, I am not tone-deaf to the student accommodation crisis

I have been living on campus since my first year in 2020 when I lived at Barnato Hall on West Campus for the duration of my undergraduate degree. In my fourth year staying on campus, I have witnessed the introduction of three private off-campus student accommodations. Every year, their advertisements tend to lure in students with basic amenities such as: 24/7 Wi-Fi, increased laundry tokens, 24/7 security and how close they are to main campus.  

Unlike staying off-campus, on campus residences minimise the worry of travelling to class. You get to do your laundry an unlimited number of times and I have found myself coming back from studying during hours that would compromise my safety had I been living off campus. 

During orientation week of my first year, I got a guided opportunity to familiarise myself with the campus space. It was in the tours of libraries, computer labs and study labs that I got to see the lengths Wits goes to make sure we all have an equal opportunity to participate in our academics. For example, campus is never without electricity, students with no laptops have access to computers and the commerce, law and management library is open 24/7 together with access to its printers. 

I had only been living at Barnato Hall for a few weeks when loadshedding hit for the first time. To my surprise, the Wi-Fi remained on. As I was still wondering what I would be doing in the absence of electricity, it came back on in less than five minutes as the university’s generators kicked in.  

Coming from the township of Mabopane in Pretoria, this was all very new to me because we experience unscheduled power cuts on top of the loadshedding. Those living off campus are not as fortunate as they remain in darkness during such episodes. This has become worse this year after Eskom announced in February an indefinite implementation of Stage 6 loadshedding, signalling no end to the national energy crisis

I have not enjoyed everything about living in a university residence, such as when we had to wear our yellow freshmen t-shirts and welcome everyone with the residence’s war cry. However, I am grateful to have met and made so many friends during those team-building events in first year. Some remain my friends to this day. 

My experience has been vindicated by another academic study, published in 2021, which found that living on campus comes with a greater opportunity to feel like you belong, a more welcoming perception of how campus is and a greater ability to cope with studies as compared to living off campus. 

To learn more about applying and living on campus at Wits, visit the Campus Housing and Residence Life website.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Otsile Swaratlhe. Photo: File