Cash boost for varsity housing

07 March 2013 - 02:28
Blade Nzimande. File photo
Image: ALON SKUY Blade Nzimande. File photo

Historically disadvantaged universities are to receive R1.4-billion this year to build new student accommodation and refurbish existing dormitories.

Walter Sisulu University and the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape will receive R120-million each to invest in proper accommodation for their students.

This is part of the R6-billion that has been allocated towards university infrastructure this financial year, of which R1.6-billion has been ring-fenced for student accommodation.

A report commissioned in 2009 by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande, released last year, found that at least R147-billion was needed over the next 15 years to deal with the shortage in student housing at universities.

The ministerial committee found shocking conditions on its visits to universities. These included students squatting in unhygienic residences, going to bed hungry and sharing small beds.

In a report presented to parliament's oversight committee yesterday, the Department of Higher Education and Training said historically disadvantaged institutions would receive 85% of the money earmarked for the refurbishment of residences, and historically advantaged universities would receive R247.3-million.

Briefing the committee, chief director of university financial planning and information systems at the Higher Education Department Shai Makgoba highlighted the need to legislate the norms and standards that universities needed to follow on housing.

Ministerial committee lead researcher and executive director of infrastructure, finance and operations at Rhodes University Dr Iain L'Ange said site visits to the 23 universities and their 49 campuses painted a "wild west scenario" of student housing.

Pictures presented to parliament included one of eight students sharing a double room at the University of Venda and a sewage-stained window at the same university.

"I was told it had been like that for 18 months. The stench was indescribable. Officials who were accompanying me did not want to go into that area," L'Ange said.

He said the committee had discovered that in one instance a security guard was filling the post of acting house warden.

In another, there was insufficient housing for students but a three-storey, expensively built, car park stood open at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

L'Ange said poor nutrition and hunger were prevalent at all the universities.

To solve the problems, the department's recommendations included:

  • That accommodation for first years be prioritised. The study found that only 5% of first-year students were able to be housed;
  • Assessing residence management and administration;
  • Partnering with the private sector to establish student villages to tackle on-campus shortage; and
  • Policy to manage residence admissions and allocations.