‘We live like pigs’
Ten students sharing a room meant for two – that’s the situation at Walter Sisulu University (WSU), where violent protests against a critical shortage of accommodation erupted this week.
The university’s main campus in Mthatha was forced to close after students allegedly destroyed property and ransacked the cafeteria in protest against the lack of student housing.
In East London’s Buffalo City Campus, 51 protesting students were arrested and then released on a warning.
But the situation at one of the university’s residences in the city, Wosley Court, shows how desperate the need for student accommodation has become.
Wosley Court is one of many blocks of flats housing WSU students around Southernwood, East London.
Students, who asked not to be named because they were squatting there with friends against the university’s rules, said management needed to urgently address the issue to avoid more protests.
“Our strike is very peaceful so far. Maybe that is why management is not taking us seriously. I don’t know whether they want the same thing happening in Mthatha to happen in all campuses before they take us seriously. I mean, we are living like pigs,” said a 23year-old consumer science student who shares a room in Wosley Court with nine others.
The third-year student from Bizana shares a single bed with another female student. Two others sleep on the other single bed, while six others share mattresses on the floor.
“It’s a mess,” she said, adding that she barely sleeps.
The small room contains two lockers and two desks.
“Now can you imagine, we are all ladies here and we don’t even have privacy. We’re practically on top of each other. It is summer. It is hot day and night. This whole thing is not hygienic, but we don’t have a choice,” she said.
“We do everything together – even if you buy a banana you have to share it with nine other people.”
A second student sharing the same room said they found it impossible to study.
“You can’t do anything. It’s so uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel like giving up. It is so annoying and embarrassing to live like this. I’m sure our parents think we live comfortably, but we also don’t want to stress them,” said the 24-year old management student from Ngcobo. Another student and squatter at WSU’s Geraldine residence said they slept six to a room meant for three.
A small business management second-year student from Mthatha said there were 10 people sharing his room meant for two at WSU’s Jacaranda residence in Southernwood.
He said he found it hard to focus on his books and the protests were a blessing in disguise.
Meanwhile, a third-year student in Windham residence said they slept 12 in a room meant for two.
“It’s bad. You get allergies. You are exposed to infections and all sorts of things. They need to fix this. It is unhygienic and inhumane,” said the 25-yearold management student from Mount Frere.
WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said they discouraged squatting by students because this was illegal and strained building infrastructure.
“We are aware that things like squatting exist, but it is always difficult to control. When we do find that happening, we don’t have a choice but to evict those students.
“If, for instance, a building is supposed to accommodate 50 students but due to overcrowding you end up with 200 people, the infrastructure of that building will have a lot of pressure put on it. So we discourage squatting.”
Tukwayo said the problem of university overcrowding was not unique to WSU, and their long-term solution was to build more residences.
Due to the lack of accommodation, the university turns down more students than it can accommodate.
“In Mthatha, for example, where we are able to accommodate 5 000, we would be turning away another 5 000 people.”
Tukwayo said classes were expected to resume tomorrow.
st“Our rike is very
peaceful so far. Maybe that is why management is not taking us seriously. I don’t know whether they want the same thing happening in Mthatha to happen
in all campuses before they take us seriously. I mean, we
are living like pigs