Shortage of accommodation compromises teaching and learning at Fort Hare

Five students sharing a bed in one of the residences at Fort Hare University in East London. Photo supplied.

Teaching and learning has been badly affected by the lack of accommodation at the East London campus of Fort Hare University, while living conditions for students at the main campus in Alice are just as bad.

East London, South Africa

The Student Representative Council’s (SRC) at the University of Fort Hare claims that there has been no solution to a two-month long accommodation debacle at the East London campus. Teaching and learning have been compromised as a result.

Luvo Ndila, who is the SRC Residence Officer at Fort Hare said that the accommodation issues have been unsolved since last year, with the management choosing to ignore them.

“We actually did inform management about the demand for more beds last year already. We were told that they can only attend to this after registration for the 2018 academic year as they can only then determine how many students are in need.

“When the time came for students in the first term at the beginning of this month, we we told stories. Now we are faced with the issue of squatters in residences,” said Luvo.

“There has always been the issue of accommodation in this university, hence last year we made the request very early.”

The SRC claims that the management closed the tender process for the provision of accommodation for students, without informing the SRC. “Our main concern is that, this year they found irregularities with the process but didn’t inform us. Also they didn’t bother looking for alternative methods,” added Luvo.

In previous years, students would be temporarily housed in B&B’s around Quigney. This was not the case this year.

First year student, Athenkosi Vellem from Bizana said he was sharing a bed with four other students at the Glen Eagles residence, situated in Quigney.

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“I was forced at home last week Friday to come and see if classes had not started yet. I had no residence allocated to me and I don’t have relatives around,” said Vellem

The 19-year-old says he slept in one of the taverns in Fleet street for two days.  “It is not an ideal environment to study in. I am an LLB student and I thought by now, I would already be enjoying my studies,” he added.

University spokesperson, Khotso Moabi admitted that there are accommodation problems but denied classes were not going on.

“We are working tirelessly to resolve residence issues. We are happy that matters have been calm a bit,” said Moabi.

“We hope to see classes going on without any disruptions. We did inform the students that we do everything according to a policy,” he added.

Last year the university served the SRC a court interdict preventing them holding any protest action. Students have, however, made it their mandate to disrupt classes, without the leadership of the SRC.

A Democratic Alliance (DA) committee, led by MP Hlomela Bucwa discovered poor accommodation at the Alice campus of Fort Hare when they visited there recently.

Ablution facilities at the campus residence are dirty and unsanitary and this is detrimental to the health of students,” reads the media statement by Bucwa.

Third-year student and Pan African Students Movement of Azania (PASMA) member, Vuyo Mcata accused Fort Hare Vice Chancellor (VC), Sakhela Buhlungu of ignoring them as students.

“The VC is very ignorant and is not approachable. He doesn’t show interest to even meet with us as student leaders. We are very sure that a storm is brewing with his attitude,” said Mcata.

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“This is no mighty UCT, and we cannot afford to pay for accommodation from our pockets,” added Mcata referring to the fact that Buhlungu was a Dean of Humanities at UCT, where students from mainly middle and upper class backgrounds are able to afford residence fees and private accommodation.

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About Chris Gilili 27 Articles
Chris Gilili, a 23 year old freelance journalist based in East London. Graduated from Walter Sisulu University media studies school in 2015. Had a stint with Independent Media, in sports writing. Passionate about news and the media.