Cedara: Exam candidates left stranded

2012-11-08 00:00

A GROUP of assistant extension officers with the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, who were due to start writing exams today, were stranded in a tiny television room at Cedara College yesterday.

They claimed the department had failed to arrange their accommodation.

Hundreds of the students, from 11 districts in the province, were cramped in a room piled with their blankets and bags. Some used their luggage as cushions.

Not wanting to flunk their exams, they huddled in groups and tried to study. Others munched on pizzas and chicken in the corridors.

“We’re cold and hungry,” one was heard saying.

They claim they were promised accommodation at Cedera College, but they arrived to find all the hostels full.

The students have an agriculture qualification, but were unemployed.

The department recruited them as assistant agricultural extension officers.

They hold bursaries and are studying part-time through Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Their job entails seed distribution to households as part of the KZN government’s aim to increase food security in the province.

The students told The Witness they were disappointed by the department’s treatment.

“We’re stranded like animals,” complained one student, who said she was thinking of changing careers.

Others were placed at bed-and-breakfast facilities, but did not have rooms when they arrived. They also complained about their monthly R3 500 stipends and said they should be earning R9 500.

They were also angry that their contracts would be terminated at the end of November.

“Why would they take us to university using taxpayers’ money to equip us with knowledge when they know they are not going to use us in the future?” said one of the students.

Department spokesperson Jeffrey Zikhali said management would arrange accommodation, but it was not the government’s responsibility to offer the students transport or a place to stay.

“We only cater for the extension officers, not assistants,” he said.

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