Return plan ‘unfair’

Prospective students joined the long queue at the University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park this week to apply for  admission. Universities across the country open next month for the new academic year. Picture: Rosetta Msimango
Prospective students joined the long queue at the University of Johannesburg in Auckland Park this week to apply for admission. Universities across the country open next month for the new academic year. Picture: Rosetta Msimango

WHILE tertiary institutes will start with their staggered intake of students this week, student representative bodies have rejected government’s limited intake and landlords warn that students could be locked out of their accommodation should they not be paid.

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande recently gave the go-ahead for the staggered intake of students, including final-year undergraduate students in laboratory- and clinically-based programmes.

Students with disabilities, the SRC executive, Student Resident’s Association, student life officers, residence assistant officers and those who have not been able to access the online learning programmes are also included.

There will be a staggered approach to the eligible one-third of students returning to campus, which started yesterday. The broad categories of the staggered return are as follows: from July 1-3 all eligible undergraduate students will return to campus and leased accommodation; July 6 — all eligible postgraduate and day students in programmes that require laboratory or clinical work; July 13 — all remaining eligible day students in programmes with laboratory or clinical work return.

Only those students who have received a personal invitation to return to campus, however, will be permitted on campus and will have to apply for a travel permit.

At the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus, mainly residence and cleaning staff arrived yesterday to begin organising the premises. Access control onto the campus is strictly controlled with only those students and officials with pre-authorisation allowed to enter. Students will have to sign and accept a code of conduct and an indemnity form. A health vulnerability checklist will also have to be completed.

Students will be required to wear masks at all times on campus, practice social distancing and no access to the campus will be granted other than from 6 am-6 pm. All level 3 lockdown regulations will need to be adhered to at all times.

UKZN SRC president Sifiso Simelane said they would be writing to the university to reject the planned staggered intake as it created a disadvantage to many students.

In addition, he said many students had contacted them for intervention as they were “depressed and suicidal” as a result of not being able to complete their studies for the year.

“How does government decide which 33,3% of students go back? The hardest hit, as always, are those who are poor and without online learning facilities. Government needs to allow the complete student population to return at once in order for it to be fair to everyone,” said Simelane.

Several landlords said they were facing a “dire situation” as they had not been paid since February for student accommodation.

One landlord, who rents out several properties, said when students left they took the bare essentials, thinking the lockdown would be over in a short-while. “They left food in the fridges, their belongings in their rooms — they basically left with a weekend’s worth of items and the rest in their rooms that were locked. We have had to foot the electricity bill for those fridges and other related expenses. Yet we have not been paid since February.

“Unless there is some agreement on when we are going to be paid, it will be a very sad day if students find themselves locked out of their accommodation,” said the landlord.

Another landlord said they faced mounting debt and possible repossession of their property as a result of non-payment from the university.

“It’s been a long, difficult journey and we don’t know if we are even going to survive this. We stand to lose everything,” said the landlord.

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