DANIELLE PETTERSON

“The conditions under which students are being housed in some university-leased buildings can only be described as squalid,” says a report by the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The recently released report reviewed the condition of student housing at South African universities and revealed some shocking findings.

According to the report, the exceedingly high demand for on-campus accommodation has put universities under pressure. This has frequently resulted in informal and unmanaged over-accommodation including squatting, overuse and the decay of existing infrastructure and utility services.

The report states that approximately a quarter of all infrastructure, including dining hall facilities, are in an unsatisfactory condition. The report estimates that the value of the current national maintenance and refurbishment backlog is R2,5 billion. The report claims that if the existing residence stock is to be modernised to render the residences “fit-for-purpose”, then a further R1,9 billion is required. Enrolment at universities has drastically increased in the last decade.

The number of beds available at residential universities can only cater to 20% of total students enrolled. The estimated current residence bed shortage is approximately 195 815.

The misdistribution of National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for student accommodation at a number of universities is the direct cause of much suffering and hardship to students, states the report.

According to Prof. Roelf Visser, Director of Residence Affairs and Accommodation, UP cannot accommodate all those who apply for student housing. He added that the university intends increasing its residence capacity to at least maintain the existing ratio of available beds for total enrolled students as the university grows.

There are 26 undergraduate and three postgraduate residences as well various student houses at UP which collectively accommodate more than 8 000 students. This is approximately a quarter of the quota recommended by government. According to Visser, TuksRes is one of the leading housing units in South Africa.

Visser maintains that “TuksRes provides a ‘home away from home’ experience for students living in residences”.

The Department of Higher Education and Training, however, is calling for accountability in university student housing and recommends that all universities develop a multi-year strategic plan for residence maintenance and refurbishment.

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