University Residences: To open or keep their doors closed?

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By Asenathi Ntamo

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.

 

A number of university students expressed how they felt about the newly-adopted online school system and the general response amongst them has been a mixture of different emotions. A student of the University of Cape Town (UCT) tweeted a few days ago, “I’ve been struggling with my mental health and being at home means I can’t have the privacy to deal with my emotions properly” while another said that being at home is exactly what he needed to deal with the academic stress he had been facing and so the mixed emotions about the transition to online learning is also the general mood around returning to residences.

 

UCT sent out an email to students about the four-phased return to their residences where the students will be in isolation for fourteen days upon arrival in order to minimise the chance of an outbreak in the residences. The growing number of Covid-19 cases that have been reported in the Western Cape particularly, have been a cause for concern for both students and their parents. One student commented, “As much as I work well when I’m at school (res), I’m a bit anxious about returning there in the first few days because of the uncertainties that come with the coronavirus” and a parent firmly expressed that they did not want their child returning to university residences just yet due to student carelessness and how they sometimes enter into situations that are not well thought out.

 

Although the term “vulnerable students” has not been given a fixed definition, there are students in situations that make them vulnerable to issues that the majority of students are not exposed to. A UCT student from a rural area in the Eastern Cape, known as Qumbu, spoke out about her frustrations in dealing with studying from home, expressing that she experienced a few problems which include load shedding for up to 24 hours and network connectivity that’s only available at specific times of the day and in specific rooms of the house. She further expressed how she cannot wait to be back at the university residence as this will decrease the load she has to deal with.

 

While some students want to be in residences for their mental and physical health, others want to be there simply to see their friends and be in a productive space. Overall, the response from students is that they would rather be in residence although the fears and concerns of the virus play a big factor in their response.

 

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