Students at the University of Witwatersrand desperate for funding say they are tired of being given temporary hope and solutions to issues that have reduced them to living like beggars. This comes after scores of students and members of the institution’s student representative council (SRC) went on a hunger strike early last week.
That progressed into a full-blown campus shutdown over their accommodation and financial woes. Scores of students have been left homeless because the university has opted to prioritise first-year students in on-campus accommodation, while many are also still awaiting Nsfas funds to register. Although the institution and SRC members reached an agreement to stop the protest by the end of the week, Wits Economic Freedom Fighters student command secretary Kamohelo Chauke said the agreement was like “putting a plaster on a gunshot wound”, because it was only a temporary solution to a much bigger issue that was still ongoing.
Ofentse Mokoape speaks to The Citizen about his situation at Wits regarding fees and accomodation, 13 February 2019. Picture Neil McCartney Third-year education student and a squatter at the university, Ofenste Mokoape, said he had been studying at the university since 2017 and his financial insecurities with both the university and Nsfas had sent him to a mental illness ward in his first year. “I was a Nsfas beneficiary but right now I cannot access my allowance until March and I don’t even know about my status with them, so I am applying for another fund,” he said.
“Often when you become a beneficiary, you also become a breadwinner because you have to contribute to the household. “Mine is one of nine members and only one person is working. Now I don’t have money for transport to go to school so I just sleep at school sometimes, often without food, which makes it difficult for me to study or concentrate.
” During the protests last week, Wits management said it would be impossible to provide accommodation for all students and that the minority affected were already being assisted through their hardship fund.