Three UP students have created a first year transport initiative in which they assist incoming first year students to get to their residences or private accommodation locations. The initiative’s creators, Bongo Lobese, Caroline Letsoalo and Refiloe Mofokeng strive to build a relationship with first years and become a support structure that many new students lack.
Starting on 26 January, when most first years arrive at their residences, students/people who volunteer for the drive will be collecting incoming students from various arrival points such as airports, taxi ranks, train or bus stations, and dropping them off at their places of residence.
Students who would like to participate in the initiative (as either a student is arriving in Pretoria or a volunteer who is able to transport students to their accommodation) can contact the drive’s creators on social media platforms, namely Twitter and Facebook.
Lobese tells Perdeby that when she first thought of this initiative she just wanted to ensure young black women who would be embarking on this journey alone would have a companion on arrival. “The high femicide rates & daily stories of violation that come up meant one couldn’t not act in assisting where I could in ensuring students are protected.” said Lobese. She also highlighted the financial strain in making one’s way to university can take. “For many students their parents or guardians spent their last R350 on a bus ticket to Pretoria not knowing how their child would get to Hatfield, leaving young women, especially, vulnerable.”
So far the response to the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive, with current and alumni UP students, businesses and citizens offering to assist as drivers or companions, and by donating funds and Toyota Quantums for transport.
“We truly envision this initiative being one that lasts beyond our time at the institution. The aim is that as this continues into the next few years that UP management commits itself (even today) to supply shuttles for students at Bosman station (& other pickup spots) to their residences and private accommodation.” the team said. They also hope to find corporate funding for textbooks, stationery, clothes & other necessities that vulnerable first year students need.
The driving initiative will end when academic registration closes (29 January) and when all students who are in need have been assisted.
Their initiative also includes another aspect where new students will be informed that they need not participate in UP residence activities if they do not want to. During the trip, “Each driver and companion [is] to properly explain to students that should they feel uncomfortable at any stage[,] they are free to contact us[.] [W]e will make sure to follow up with [them].” Students will be referred to the TuksRes Guide page 16, Sub-Heading 32 – ‘Social interaction and student life’, paragraph 32.3 which reads, “No resident student may be forced or coerced into participating in any social interaction or student activity.”
According to Letsoalo, it is important to inform students about this because, “TuksRes culture is not safe & accommodating to black students, women, students with disabilities and the LGBT community.” Letsoalo said that they are aware of too many incidents where students from these groups have had violent and/or uncomfortable experiences as a result of being forced into co-operating with resident practices, which must stop.
“I had to participate in activities I didn’t want to. It was uncomfortable & I was bullied into it.” she recalls.
The team believes that certain residence practices breed inferiority complexes within first year students instead of cultures and environments that are conducive to learning and consented activities, which would make the transition into university easier.