Zululand University Working To Solve Student Accommodation Issues

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The University of Zululand is working to solve the issues students have been having regarding accommodation. The problems students have been facing have been ongoing for years now.

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The University of Zululand, also known as UniZulu, has been having a multitude of problems, stretching all the way back to 2019.

At a recent Parliamentary Meeting, Thokozani Makhosonke Langa (a member of the National Assembly) posed a question, asking "what measures of intervention have been taken to ensure that more students’ residences are built in order to accommodate the thousands of students enrolled at the University of Zululand?"

Early in 2019, students across the country protested about the shortage of accommodation on university campuses.

Complaints of "inhumane" conditions in reference to student accommodation, struggles to find accommodation, and compromised safety while at off-campus residences have been plaguing the thousands of students at the university.  

The Deputy Director General at the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Diane Parker, acknowledged (at the time) before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on higher education in February 2019, that the shortage of quality student accommodation remains an issue of concern, and will most likely stay that way for a while.

In order to deal with the situation of students who are stranded or otherwise living in unfavourable accommodation conditions, the DHET has taken steps to ensure that the institution builds more residences by undertaking a feasibility study.

"The feasibility study originally targeted the construction of 3500 beds at the institution's Kwa-Dlangewzwa Campus to eradicate student housing backlogs, and the Department is working closely with the institution to finalise the feasibility study," reads the Parliamentary Meeting notes. 

According to the DHET, a few short-term measures and interventions have been taken, including the approval of a sum of R235 million from the previous approved funding, enabling the institution to develop an immediate number of 783 beds at its KwaDlangezwa Campus while finalising the feasibility study; the contractor is currently onsite. 

The gloomy conditions students find themselves living in have made their university experience unbearable; conditions they have been living in for most of their study period. The students have said that not only was their accommodation uncomfortable, but it has also affected their ability to study.

“You can’t study here. We just come here to eat and sleep and study at the library. But the library closes at 11pm. And sometimes you want to come back and study, but you find someone chilling with their friends and you can’t chase them away, or you find another person cooking. It’s just chaotic. It’s hell, actually,” said one of the students.

Most toilets have no doors and electrical wiring hangs loose from the ceiling in the bathrooms. Students have complained that there was no hot water to shower, and that on some weekends, the electricity trips and they were left without power to cook and charge their phones until the Monday, when someone would arrive to fix it.

A room meant for two people now houses six, students do not have desks, have to cook in the rooms because there are no communal kitchens and only have two tiny cabinets to store their groceries and clothes.

On top of the stressful living conditions, students also live in fear of the crime in the area, worried for their safety as they are targeted by criminals. 

"They break into our rooms at gunpoint and take our laptops and everything,” said a student. “We don’t even have burglar bars. There are better off-campus residences, but they are far from the campus and are expensive; we cannot afford R1 000 rent.”

The long-term measures and interventions currently being implemented by the DHET are long overdue, but include:

  1. the redirecting of the feasibility study, to ensure that it is focused on two campuses, namely the KwaDlangezwa and the Richards Bay Campuses, as the study seeks to address the student housing backlogs at both KwaDlangezwa and Richards Bay Campuses.
  2. One of the interventions seeking to balance the provision of beds by allocating 1500 beds at both campuses to accommodate students enrolled at the institution. 

"Once the feasibility study has been completed, the Department will work with the institution to determine a suitable funding approach to ensure that the institution builds more accommodation to ensure that most enrolled students are accommodated at the institution’s own accommodation facilities," promises the DHET. 


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