Student Accommodation Crisis
It is a known fact around the country that many of our students are having serious problems when it comes to finding student accommodation. This is something that needs to be addressed and dealt with as soon as possible by the authorities, before even more student protests arise and more people get injured. At the end of the day, when it comes to these matters, student safety should be a number one priority.
The main source of this issue is that Universities seem to be accepting more people than they can actually accommodate in their residential buildings and some young people simply cannot afford student accommodation so they have to rely on financial aid schemes to help them out but they are also having problems with that. Just last week it came out that there has been a group of Wits University students forced to take up residence illegally on campus for about a month now because they have either lost their bursaries due to varies reasons or are just waiting for their National Student Financial Aid Scheme. They were found in the corridors, in the study halls and even in the laboratories because they were not provided with the necessary accommodation. They have to rely on food from Non-governmental organizations such as Gift of the Givers.
Not every learner can afford student accommodation off campus so they depend on universities to accommodate them and the cost of living, alone, is already just staggering as it is. These Wits University students are part of more than 500 who were struggling to get student accommodation at the beginning of the school year and only about 200 students were helped. So what about the rest? Yes, people can say these students should find means of making money like getting part-time jobs but the reality of it all is that it is not to piece of cake to just go out there and find a job. If it was that easy this would not be a crisis. Plus the stress these students are feeling already is already immense as school is tough enough as it is.
School has been a very interesting experience. Our very first class was disrupted because there was a strike . I didn’t really understand why until it was explained to us that some people did not have student accommodation and their bursaries had not [been] paid out, this meant that they were not able to register for school, let alone res”, says a Wits student. The School Representative Council (SRC) tried helping out the students who are not eligible for financial assistance but they can only do so much. They even have a fund called the Humanitarian Fund which has R100 million to provide aid for students who have historical debt below the threshold of R100 000. This fund will allow the students to register as well as assist them with accommodation.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal is not any better when it comes to the accommodation struggle. “Me, personally I don’t know anybody who stays at res but I will tell you that the issue is still very much unsolved. Last time I checked there are still students sleeping on campus because they don’t have a place to stay”, says Nokubongwa Mbatha, a first-year student at UKZN’s Howard campus.
If these students are able to find work somewhere, that would be much better for them. More residential buildings must be made available and be more affordable so students can have one less thing to stress about. Universities need to do major damage control to at least make the situation a little bit better for their students because they have to be met halfway and hopefully with time we can see some progress.
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