Students stranded as residence closes

2019-01-23 06:01
Students with their bags outside the TVET campus on Friday.PHOTO: lethiwe makhanya

Students with their bags outside the TVET campus on Friday.PHOTO: lethiwe makhanya

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IT been over a week since Umgungundlovu Technical Vocational (TVET) College students returned to Pietermaritzburg to commence the academic year. However, more than 200 of them have found themselves squatting at a community hall in Imbali Unit 1 after they were greeted by a sign at the college entrance which stated: “No accommodation.”

Students were told by college principal Ntombi Ntshangase that the residence at the campus has been closed and that they should look for alternative accommodation.

The area’s ward councillor, Thamsanqa Sithole, gave permission to the students to stay at the hall.

When Echo visited the campus on Friday, students were seen sitting outside the gate with their belongings.

Speaking to the Echo, one student said: “Had campus management told us when we were closing last year that we had to look for our own accommodation we wouldn’t be in this situation. If they are chasing us out now, where are we supposed to go? We don’t even have money to pay rent. We are just asking the college to let us stay while we make other arrangements.”

Another student said: “If we have to look for private accommodation I am dropping out because I don’t have money.”

On Friday students were forced to move out of the hall as it was booked for a funeral on Saturday. They spent the night cramped in a small room on the hall premises.

Student Representative Council president, Bongiwe Langa, told Echo that they have tried to engage with management to resolve the issue but they were told that are no solutions and that they need to look for their own accommodation.

“The principal told us that this decision was taken by the SRC for the year 2016 but no one bothered to tell us that this year we will not have accommodation. Not even us as SRC members were informed about this. This is not how we imagined to start our year.”

“Neighbours of the community hall have been helping us with sponges and food but they will also get tired because it is a large number to feed,” she said, adding that the college should let students live at the campus until they find a place to stay.

“Even if we do obtain a rental, it is going to be difficult to pay for it because we all know that NSFAS sometimes takes months before they can pay us,”she added.

Classes were supposed to start on Monday but that did not happen due to the accommodation issue.

Umgungundlovu TVET principal Ntombi Ntshangase dismissed the allegations that the students were not informed about the closure of the students residence and confirmed that the decision was taken in 2016.

“The students were part of that decision making in the council.We all agreed that it is better if we close the students residence. We did not just wake up and say we are closing. 2017 was supposed to be their last year living on campus but they requested that we give them another year so that they can look for accommodation in the private sector. We agreed. Since 2018, we have been reminding them that this year they will have to look for their own accommodation. No one had a problem with that all along.

“We took the decision to close the residential area because we wanted more people to benefit. Previously there were over 400 students who were staying there but last year we had just over 200.

We sat down and discussed that if we can renovate these buildings and turn them into classes there are lot of people who are going to benefit instead of this 200.

“As we are still engaging with students, classes have not yet started on Plessislaer campus — other campuses are functioning well.

“When we reach an agreement we will initiate a programme to ensure that we catch up on all the lost time,” she said.

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