‘We live like pigs’

CityPress - - News - LUBA­BALO NGCUKANA luba­balo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

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

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