International students at the University of Pretoria (UP) held an International Students Forum on May 12. At the forum a report was given on what the SRC has been doing for international students with regard to the challenges they face. The meeting also gave students the opportunity for students to raise issues they are currently struggling with. There are currently about 6000 international students at UP, which is about a tenth of the student population.
The meeting was organized by the SRC representative for international students, Kendi Mwabila. She was also assisted by the SRC member for Tukkie Pride, Tebogo Twala, and other members of the International Students Society (UPI).
According to Mwabila, acquiring a study permit is at the top of the list of challenges that international students face, “Suffice to say, the maladministration of Home Affairs has not helped in this matter.” She also says that if the police get hold of international students without their study permits, they consider them illegal immigrants.
Accommodation has been one of the greatest challenges international students face. Mwabila says that the Private Accommodation office was removed from campus because they exploited international students. “However, it has not been easy to solve this issue as most of the accommodation companies are outside the campus,” says Mwabila.
Another issue discussed at the forum was that every international student is required to carry their passport at all times, in case that they are asked for identification documents. “Failure to provide your passport [and] a night in jail will be the destination,” says Mwabila. “A student card does not serve as an identification document.”
Other concerns faced by international students were their struggle to secure financing and alternative medical aid options. “Among international students, there is a general feeling that the university doesn’t really care that much about their welfare,” says Mwabila. “However, dealing with the issues that we all face might be the first step to create a sense of belonging to the university.”
Despite a very low turnout, the meeting was described as quite productive. Pressing issues were addressed and the International Students Division answered various questions regarding these issues.
A few SASCO members were also present. They insisted that international students join hands with them in fighting the challenges that are common to both parties.