South Africa: Widespread Shortage of Beds At Walter Sisulu University Undesirable

A delegation of members of both houses of Parliament was taken aback by the extent of the shortage of beds within the residences of institutions of higher learning in the Eastern Cape. The delegation visited the student residences of the Walter Sisulu University, East London Campus. The visit was part of the Taking Parliament to the People programme, a collaborative oversight programme between the National Council of Provinces, the National Assembly and the Eastern Cape Legislature.

In one of the rooms at a women's residence, the delegation was told that more than four students were living in a room designed to accommodate only two. "We have seen first-hand the challenge of accommodation here. There is a need for intervention, but we are happy that the university, through funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training, is busy with the construction of additional residences. Hopefully, this will alleviate the challenges we have witnessed," said the leader of the delegation, Dr Hunadi Mateme.

The university's acting Vice Chancellor said that the 5 000 available beds were insufficient for the 28 000 students. "This poses a serious challenge, as students are at the mercy of market forces if they seek accommodation off-campus. The difficulty is compounded for our students, considering the university's location in Buffalo City, because properties within the vicinity are not big enough to rent out a room and the city centre is about 35km away," said the university's Institutional Strategic Planner, Mr Siyabulela Mnyaisa.

While the university is currently busy with the development of more residential units, a huge infrastructure backlog remains. "Government's initiatives to increase access to higher education in line with the National Development Plan means that demand for accommodation will continuously increase, exceeding supply," Mr Mnyaisa explained.

A report commissioned by the Minister of Higher Education in 2012 estimated a shortage of 195 815 beds countrywide. "In these terms, the cost of overcoming this shortage over a period of 10 years is estimated at R82.4 billion, or R109.6 billion over fifteen years," the report said.

The Secretary-General of Student Representative Council, Mr Nelisa Qomiyna, informed the committee that at the university's Ibika campus the situation was so dire that there is not even enough water to meet students' needs. The delegation instructed the university to take measures to ensure that the residences at Ibika campus have access to water. "This matter must be resolved before the Taking Parliament to The People programme ends this Friday," Dr Mateme emphasised.

Source: Parliament of South Africa.

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