WATCH | UKZN student leaders vow to ‘shut down the institution’

22 February 2023 - 19:19
By Sakhiseni Nxumalo
Students at UKZN's Howard College sleep on the floor as they accuse the institution of not providing them with accommodation.
Image: Supplied Students at UKZN's Howard College sleep on the floor as they accuse the institution of not providing them with accommodation.

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) student leaders have threatened to shut down the institution until all students are allocated residences as many spend their nights sleeping in halls, corridors and classrooms. 

Videos and pictures of students sleeping on chairs, on the floor and in corridors and halls have been doing the rounds on social media.

Students say many of them are yet to be registered because of historical debt, while others are yet to be enrolled, with the university stating they do not have space.

Inamandla Mabunda, EFF Student Command KwaZulu-Natal president, said those affected include first-year and returning students.

Mabunda said since registration is online, many students from rural areas are unable to complete their registration because of network issues and go to the campus for help.  

Many of the affected students are funded through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Some of the students are waiting for NSFAS to approve their funding, while others are required to pay off 15% of their historic debt before they can register, he said.  

Mabunda said it was inconvenient for many as they can’t afford to pay the 15%.

“It is not true that all accommodation is occupied. That’s a lie they feed to us and students, and we are tired of listening to that. It’s a shame students are forced to sleep on the floor and they don’t have food. There is no privacy and female students are exposed to gender-based violence.”

Mabunda said student leaders at all five UKZN campuses, including Pietermaritzburg, believe the university should be shut down until all issues are resolved. He said the issue of residences was not a crisis at Howard College alone but at all campuses.

“We are frustrated now and believe the university must be shut down until all the issues are resolved. What is frustrating is that the staff have locked themselves in their offices and don’t want to help students. They keep directing students to raise their issues via email yet students do not get responses. We will have to shut the university soon.”

He said students have reached boiling point “and we have to do what needs to be done to ensure that students are assisted”. 

UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said the university was committed to ensuring all students have access to safe and adequate accommodation.

However, she said, the university's approved allocation of 19,550 beds for the 2023 academic year versus the high number of enrolments meant that it was not possible to provide accommodation for every registered student in the university's own residences.

Zondo said staff are working tirelessly to ensure all eligible students are registered and allocated accommodation.

By Wednesday morning, 17,796 students, including 3,374 first time entry new students (FTENs), had been registered and allocated residences while 640 students, including 89 FTENs, were allocated beds but have not yet registered.

“University management met this week to discuss challenges relating to residences and agreed to prioritise NSFAS-funded FTENs to find them suitable accommodation in university-managed residences.

“The university has started to release unoccupied beds previously allocated for returning students who are still not registered. Those are now being allocated to the FTENs in line with the university's commitment. Students who are not yet registered but have been allocated residences are being accommodated at Addington. It is important to note that there will be no increase in the number of council-approved beds in the interim,” she said.

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