University residence crisis

2008-02-19 00:00

STUDENTS at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KZN protested there yesterday about the lack of accommodation.

Some had planned to spend Sunday night sleeping in the queue outside the housing office, until the Student Representative Council (SRC) found them a room to wait in.

Students said the issue of limited residences is not new.

When they returned two weeks ago for the new year, there were not enough places, despite the management promising places.

They said that since they raised the matter a week ago, there has been no progress.

Yesterday’s student protest was backed by the ANC Youth League, SA Students’ Congress and the Young Communist League.

Students said some who are not lucky enough to be able to squat in friends’ rooms, or live with relatives close by, have resorted to sleeping on benches in TV lounges on campus.

Siyabonga Dlamini, the deputy chair of the ANC Youth League, said the problem is the over-allocation of housing and the housing unit’s unwillingness to rent more housing in the city.

“Students returned with reference numbers after it was confirmed that they had accommodation, only to find there are no rooms available …,” Dlamini said.

The students’ demands are simple: they want everyone on the waiting list to be given accommodation.

Mluleka Shezi, a member of the executive committee, said UKZN adopts a first come, first serve policy, without informing students properly. This, he said, results in first-year students getting most of the accommodation.

Nqobile Zondi, a third-year student, said she is one of the students who would have had to sleep on the floor had the SRC not found them a room. “I want a room. I was promised one since 2007. All they tell you is get outside accommodation. Where? Everything is taken,” she said.

A Zimbabwean student in her honours year said she is disappointed. “I have no family here. Exactly where are we supposed to go? They turned me away, even with cash in hand. It is definitely not a money issue, but poor management by the department.

“The SRC tried to get them to start looking into leasing buildings around the city for this purpose a few years ago; they did not listen … and we are bearing the brunt.”

Nontobeko Mthembu, a third-year student, said many of them are at a crucial point in their studies. “How can you expect third-year and honours students to share with first years? … We are still expected to pay the full R12 000 for the eight months we are at varsity.

Some international students are resorting to digs, but not many of us are so fortunate to have that kind of cash.”

The university could not immediately clarify how many students who had applied for accommodation had still not received any.

UKZN spokesman Professor Dasarath Chetty said 66 students are being allocated accommodation at a privately run residence in town, which has 25 rooms.

Another 41 rooms have been made available in campus residences where places that were allocated were not taken up. “Of the 140 students on the list presented to the department of student housing, it appears that only 56 students had actually applied for accommodation for 2008.”

He did say, however, that the parties agreed that further accommodation will be found by the end of the first week of March.

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