- Published on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 15:13
- Written by Kaede Wildschut
Following an investigation, over R147 billion is set to be provided to the accommodation of South African University students.
Blade Nzimande’s report presented on Wednesday, February the 29th, alleging the dire state of residences at South African universities, called for an investment of over R147 billion to allow students to be acceptably accommodated at universities.
A team, led by Nzimande, was commissioned to investigate the conditions of university residences and student housing in South Africa. The key issues raised by Nzimande’s report were: the shortage of 195 000 beds in residences across the nation – which allows only 20% of students to be accommodated in residences – and insufficient catering facilities that often cause students to go days without a meal.
One of the investigators, Ihron Rensburg, vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, gave his opinion on the conditions at some university residences: “[They] were appalling. On the occasion that the team was visiting a particular residence, the food had been moved to this campus from the main residence. It arrived cold and – from the impression we had – was rotten,” Rensburg said.
However, the bleak picture painted by these findings was not one that many UCT residence students can relate to. Felix Martinez, a resident of Leo Marquard Hall, said that he did not think that these insights applied to UCT residences: “Everything’s good here”. While he said “a few things could be improved” he was confident that his residence was well-managed and -maintained.
Glenda Wildschut, Director of Transformation Services, agreed with Felix’s statement. She said that, in UCT’s case, students who live in residence are generally privileged by their surroundings. Wildschut said that there are definitely students who go hungry for days, but these are students who did not get a residence placement and who live in poverty-stricken areas.
UCT’s Student Housing Policy states that “6% of the total beds” will be allocated to “applicants who are African, Coloured, Chinese or Indian and [...] who have attended schools that have been identified as being disadvantaged.”
This allocation does not benefit all disadvantaged students, and many students are often unable to study at UCT or end up struggling with their studies because they are forced to live at home. “There are many sad stories. I knew of a student who would sit in the canteen and wait for students to get up from tables, and then would quickly run and grab their leftovers. That was how he sustained himself,” said Wildschut.
There are great challenges in trying to overcome the obstacles of poverty when they reach so far beyond the boundaries of campus and residences. UCT, however, is committed to transformation.
Ways of supporting disadvantaged students struggling, not with living in university residences, but at home, are being investigated.
One of the ideas that is being discussed is that of “dayrooms”. These rooms would provide a private space for students to do assignments, have internet access, a bed, and perhaps a meal to help sustain them for the day.
Earlier in the year, iMaverick journalist Rebecca Davis accompanied three students on their move from their Khayelitsha homes into UCT residences. One of the students, Afika Damane, said the move was “the biggest step [he’d] ever taken”.
While Nzimande and his team may have found many university residences in South Africa in a shocking condition, UCT residences seem to have maintained their good reputation, and are still considered by most to be well-administered and -maintained.
The ideal situation would be for the provision of more student housing, so that more disadvantaged students will be able to benefit from the privileges and convenience of UCT residence life. Perhaps it is hoped that this is what Nzimande’s twelve-figure budget will allow for.