University of KwaZulu-Natal students who returned to the Pietermaritzburg campus on Wednesday expressed their joy and relief at having the opportunity to be back on campus.
Most of the students interviewed said they were relieved that the university had given them the option to return and continue with their studies, saying the their personal circumstances, mainly the lack of mobile network connectivity, made online learning impossible for them.
Nonceba Vilakazi, from Mbizana on the KZN South Coast, a final-year student studying plant pathology, was “overjoyed” to be back.
“I’ve been very stressed with regards to my studies as online learning was not working for me. I have not been able to connect as we have limited network coverage in the area where I stay. Being back on campus is going to make it much easier for me to continue with my studies and I am extremely grateful to the university for affording me that option,” said Vilakazi.
Another student, from the Eastern Cape, who did not want to be named and is doing her final year of her biochemistry and microbiology degree, said she was also relieved to be back at campus.
“Although it is a bit scary being out amidst the pandemic, I am happy to be on campus. It was really difficult at home as I had no network signal and had lots of household chores to do as well as look after the younger children. It was really distracting and I was extremely anxious about not being able to do my work,” said the student.
The university has adopted a staggered approach for eligible students to return from June 29 to July 13.
Eligible students include those who do not have access to online learning and those who are in programmes that require laboratory and clinical work, among others.
On Tuesday The Witness published an article with allegations from landlords that they were not paid by the university and threatened to lock out returning students.
UKZN acting executive director of corporate relations Normah Zondo refuted those claims, saying it was incorrect and a misrepresentation of facts.
Zondo said the landlords were in fact paid in full until the end of April.
She said the landlords were unable to lawfully provide safe and suitable accommodation to the students due to the many challenges brought about by Covid-19 regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act. “As a result, the university enforced a force majeure clause together with common law remedies suspending payment to contracted landlords for May.
“For June the contracted landlords were paid 33% of the monthly rental, in line with the 33% returning students — as outlined by the Department of Higher Education and Training. Rental payments will be made in accordance with the phased return of students and subject to the terms and conditions of the lease agreements, including compliance by the landlords with their contractual obligations and their obligation to provide safe and suitable accommodation,” said Zondo.
She also pointed out that residence cleaning staff had returned to work on June 11 and not June 29 as stated in the article.