TuksRes, in conjunction with the Temporary Student Committee (TSC) and a number of student societies, have worked to provide accommodation for students who have not made residence placement and don’t have a place to stay.
TSC Deputy Chairperson Jordan Griffiths explained in a statement that over the past few years the accommodation situation has steadily worsened. “From last year to this year the amount of students in dire need of accommodation has doubled. Last year 130 students were placed, this year the number is well over 200. With government failing to build more tertiary institutions, the current ones are now beginning to take the strain of an increased demand with limited supply,” Griffiths stated. He explained that students have repeatedly arrived at the TSC offices with their bags looking for somewhere to sleep.
Griffiths also made reference to government funding for tertiary institutions, such as UP, having been reduced which makes finding suitable accommodation plans more difficult. He said that he fears that if the university does not begin to make long-term arrangements soon, the strikes occurring at UKZN might occur at UP as well.
On 18 March TuksRes will be submitting a presentation to the UP Executive and Senior Management with regards to the accommodation crisis on campus. It will propose plans that t help prepare the university for the fast growing number of students who are looking for accommodation.
Director of Residence Affairs and Accommodation, Prof. Roelf Visser, explained that the university intends to increase its residence capacity by seeking private off-campus student accommodation. They hope that this will maintain the existing ratio of available accommodation to the number of enrolled students as well as to address the backlog of students who cannot be accommodated in residences.
The current ratio of available accommodation to the number of enrolled students is 8 500 beds for 47 000 students (18% compared to the national norm of 30%). Prof. Visser acknowledges that there is a definite shortage and that the department has been working on alleviating the crisis.
UP has various accredited off-campus accommodation such as MidCity, Pulse Student Living and Hantra which provide a couple of hundred beds. Urban Nest, which the male residences Boekenhout and Olienhout are occupying this year while their residences are being refurbished, will become available to students next year, providing an additional 280 beds. UP is looking to add 600 beds to Urban Nest. Prof. Visser said that the university still has land that it can build on and within the next two years another 1 500 beds are expected to become available.
The university is approaching land-owners and private developers to build on their own properties, leasing exclusively to UP students. Various projects are currently underway and UP expects an estimated 2 000 additional beds to become available by 2015.
This additional private accommodation will cater to students affected by socio-economic factors and their academics will not be taken into account. Students are placed into traditional residences based on academic merit and require a minimum of 50% to be considered. “It is sad but fair,” Prof. Visser said.
At the beginning of the year, various political societies took it upon themselves to find students without accommodation and compiled lists which were taken to TuksRes who in turn found accommodation for those students.
COPE@Tuks (Cope) Interim Chairperson Tebogo Twala explained that Cope “has been running its own Hotspot Campaign under the umbrella of the Department of Student Affairs with other student organisations to assist with accommodation.” They have been able to develop a healthy relationship with TuksRes and “95% of first-years that approach Cope have been placed in residences with [their] patience and [Marga Zeelie’s] assistance over the past three years.” Cope welcomes UP’s new introductions but feels that more needs to be done.
AfriForum Youth UP Chairperson Barend Taute said that “AfriForum supports the construction and acquisition of new UP residences to facilitate the need for accommodation. This would also allow students who want to go to a traditional residence to do so, thereby ensuring a culture of participation in residences.”
DASO Tuks Branch Leader Thorne Godinho said, “DASO Tuks has long advocated for the expansion of new residences for students or at least some kind of deal between the university and private service providers off campus to provide cheaper accommodation so that students don’t have to sleep on campus in bathrooms, for example.”
Although the societies have helped in placing students, Prof. Visser encourages students without accommodation to approach 90 Duxbury Road in person as they can be helped quicker and more effectively this way.