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WSU students get grand digs

05 February 2014, 18:48

Construction on a R40 million 240-bed student residence earmarked for housing students while a much-needed facelift is given to pre-existing residences is set to commence at Walter Sisulu University in February.

This temporary ‘decant’ residence will essentially be the first official student residence to be built by the University since the merger in 2005.  It is set to be built at the University’s Nelson Mandela Site at the Mthatha Campus and will afford the institution space to carry out renovations to residences in poor condition whilst not displacing students.

“In order for us to carry out these renovations efficiently, speedily and optimally, we must ensure we create a space to work without disruption. This residence will afford us the space to achieve this goal,” says Head in the Infrastructure Projects Management Office Siya Mnyaiza.

WSU Administrator Prof Lourens Van Staden, who’s thus far managed to solicit R485 million from DHET to turn the University’s fortunes around, said the money for this significant project was over and above the R121 million earmarked for the projects specified in the University’s Turnaround Strategy, under the infrastructure and resource planning project.

“The money used to fund this project was additional money (on top of the R485 million) solicited from DHET to supplement this venture. We felt this project was a necessity because it will help us perform our duties of renovating and repairing our residences more effectively. It will as well become a permanent student residence thus increasing our accommodation,” says Van Staden.

Aptly named a ‘neighbourhood’, the new residence will see students being housed in an attractive, functional residence which will cater for their recreational and academic needs through recreational and study areas.

The buildings are set to be connected with undercover walkways designed to encourage interaction, familiarity and recognition of each other through designated areas like common areas, green spaces and meeting places.

The building blocks of this residence will be enshrined in the concept of a block, which will be a group of 10 units consisting of eight student homes per floor.

Each unit will consist of a group of five rooms which will accommodate eight students. Each unit will have a social space – used for group study, communal food preparation and eating. Each single and double room will be a picture of tranquillity and privacy, with the latter affording its occupants this privacy with the simple shutting of a door.

WSU’s lack of accommodation continues to be one of its biggest headaches, with University-owned residences barely able to accommodate 20% of its student population. To this end, plans are afoot at the Buffalo City Campus to commence the construction of yet more residences this year – a venture that will run parallel with the Mthatha project, a venture set to cost in excess of R90 million.

Mnyaiza says these two projects will be funded under the current funding cycle, whilst the rest will “literally” have to wait for the next funding cycle, or, until alternative funds can be solicited.

Van Standen says a project involving DHET and the Development Bank of South Africa, which will involve the identification of four Universities in dire need of more equipment accommodation, is an avenue that management is looking very closely at.

“This venture is still in the pipeline so I can’t make any major announcements. However, I think this is testament to our proactivity in trying to find solutions to remedying our  accommodation problems,” says Van Staden.

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