Wits students protest over service delivery at new residence
On Thursday morning about 100 students from the University of the Witwatersrand gathered outside one of its entrances to protest against service delivery in their residence.
The students were this year moved into the newly-built Yale Village Residence in Braamfontein‚ many of them for safety reasons‚ from a residence on Esselen Street in Hillbrow.
Yale Village is a three-block residence with a gymnasium‚ a recreational room‚ outdoor sports facilities‚ a laundry room and communal kitchens and bathrooms.
Some students have private bathrooms in their rooms. Some students share rooms.
Most students are dissatisfied‚ however‚ with what they call poor delivery of services on the part of the university‚ including limited WiFi in the building.
“We are sharing bathrooms and they don't always clean them. People can get infections from toilets that aren't cleaned properly. Students are becoming sick a lot. Students are getting [urinary tract infections]. They need to be taken to hospitals‚” said Yale Village Residence house committee member Paballo Mataboge.
“Sometimes we have to take money out of our pockets and call Uber to take students to hospital. We're students but we also have to parent.”
The students say that having four cleaners to about 320 students means that communal areas are not cleaned as regularly or thoroughly as they should be.
They are also afraid for their safety when they walk to campus‚ though the residence is not more than 500m from the university's Yale Road North Gate entrance.
“Walking from campus‚ it's not safe for a woman to walk alone at night. We have to go to libraries there to access the internet. People get mugged at night."
Though Yale Village is new‚ some maintenance issues have already appeared. Tiles on the floor of a communal shower on the first floor are broken. In the recreational room ceiling tiles have come apart‚ as a result of a pipe burst‚ Mataboge said.
Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said that the university exceeds industry standards when it comes to the cleanliness of its residences and that if Yale Village residents have problems‚ these should be raised using the proper channels.
"This is an issue we have raised with the management of the building a few months ago and they said that they had increased the number of cleaners to the residence. If this is still an ongoing issue the university will take it up with them again."
Students have asked for a "convenient bus schedule" throughout the day‚ but Patel said the residence is close enough to campus. Currently there are buses running during peak hours in the morning and evening.
"We feel that the solution may not be additional buses. The university feels we are providing the service. If students feel they can make it onto campus at that time‚ they should make use of those bus services.
"If students feel their safety is still a concern because of the people living under the bridges [on Empire Road] that is an issue the university will address‚" Patel said.
Students living in Yale Village Residence may pay up to about R52‚000 accommodation costs‚ though some do pay less than that.
The university's residence council chairperson‚ Nkosinathi Maluleke‚ said part of the problem was the fact that Wits was leasing Yale Village in a “capitalist” deal with a private company.
“That puts us in a very big disadvantage in that we cannot hold anyone accountable. We can't hold Wits accountable. We can't [hold the company] accountable because everyone points at each other.”
The university's COO‚ Fana Sibanyoni‚ signed and accepted the memorandum of demands by Yale Village residents and committed to responding to the students by the close of business on Thursday.