Thu Oct 27 03:17:20 SAST 2016

‘How #FeesMustFall protests forced me to live in a shelter’ - Eddie's story

Tmg Digital | 19 October, 2016 11:15
University of Cape Town (UCT) students hold placards during protests demanding free tertiary education in Cape Town, South Africa, October 3, 2016.

The Fees Must Fall protests had dire consequences for café employee Eddie at the University of Cape Town (UCT) – he was forced to live in a shelter.

Eddie‚ who hails from Tanzania‚ works at Pandaland on campus and gets a weekly salary‚ depending on the volume of food sales. These have taken a dip after weeks of classes being disrupted‚ poo throwing‚ stun grenades and pleas from protesting students for free tertiary education.

Unable to afford to pay for his accommodation‚ he was forced to sleep in a shelter.

But‚ in a heart-warming twist to his predicament‚ civil engineering student Phil Oertel came to his rescue‚ leveraging the power of Facebook to restore his dignity and pride.

Oertel told CapeTalk radio in Cape Town on Wednesday that he had offered Eddie a spare room to stay in at his apartment‚ while crowd-sourcing funds on Facebook to get him a roof over his head.

Eddie‚ who was not identified by his surname‚ had previously studied a radio presenting course through UCT and came to South Africa hoping to pursue his dream of making hip hop and working in radio.

“UCT was shut down for two weeks and we noticed that all the food stalls were closed‚” explained Oertel.

Pandaland‚ popular for its affordable chicken wraps‚ burgers and salads‚ was the only food store open. And there was Eddie‚ who had cheerfully served Oertel in the past.

“We just asked him out of the blue‚ ‘How are the protests affecting you and how are you getting along?’ And he just looked at us and said‚ ‘Guys‚ not so well’.”

He could not afford to pay for his regular accommodation and there was scant sympathy for his pleas to pay the outstanding amount once life returned to normal on campus.

“So he ended up having to stay in a shelter in Woodstock‚” said Oertel. He gave Eddie his telephone number and offered to help.

“I’ve worked at a shelter before and it’s really not a good place to be‚ especially for someone like Eddie who‚ you can see‚ holds himself proudly‚” he told CapeTalk.

Eddie moved in briefly with Oertel and his girlfriend while they rallied support on Facebook to raise the R1600 needed to pay for a month’s accommodation at a backpackers.

The crowd-funding campaign proved to be a resounding success. Eddie’s dignity has been restored and he has a roof over his head in a safe environment.

“He’s just a genuine guy‚” said Oertel.

– TMG Digital


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