By Mantwa Mehlape
This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Is it UCT’s burden to provide student housing given Cape Town’s exorbitant rental rates?
The University of Cape Town is known to be the continent’s premier city, however it still faces the challenge of housing students in residences; hence, the student res crisis in the first semester of 2018. It was recorded in 2014 that the total enrolment of students was twenty-six thousand three hundred and fifty-seven (26 357) and due to the #feesmustfall movement the numbers increased rapidly. With the increase of student enrolment, UCT’s obligation to provide student housing had to increase as well. The Shackville demonstration in 2016 indicated how student housing was and still is a huge weight on the shoulders of the university. But, is this UCT’s problem?
Students enrolling at UCT, especially those who have attained the distinction of being here after numerous hurdles, have the right to enjoy at least a proportion of their time at a residence. A standard number of students are accepted into the university although only some of them are offered space for residence accommodation. The imbalance of admission and space for residence should be dealt with immediately and effectively. For example, they could make each single room within the residential accommodation sharing rooms instead, they could build more rooms for students, they could provide minimum standards for student accommodation and they could develop a multi- year plan for residence maintenance and refurbishment.
The magnitude of the UCT resident demographic represents people from places outside of Cape Town such as Johannesburg, Pretoria etc. Residence caters to those who are trying to escape from the underprivileged realities of depreciative living standards where there is a constant struggle for transportation and access to resources. The consequences of not dealing with this situation in due time will lead to students finding off-campus accommodation which charges a lot of money per month. Uncertainty is a huge part of student life and decent accommodation should be prioritised for students. Residence for first year students provides an initial sound mental health support and a familiar setting to start off with.
When the issue has been solved, the university obtains a good public image and the issue of student housing is no longer a burden to the university. UCT has been going through tensions in the past couple of years when it comes to students, management and general administration apathy. In this light, we should remain considerate and attempt to understand that sustainability is a priority and UCT must be able to provide for students they accepted, and not just neglect their duties.