"They said they arrived on campus after they were told they qualified for accommodation or could return to the accommodation they occupied the previous year, only to be turned away once they arrived." Picture: Supplied.
Cape Town - Classes at the Cape Town campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) were brought to a halt on Wednesday by students at the university who have been squatting in a rundown office for the past three weeks and are desperate to be assisted with accommodation.

The 50 pupils opened a doorway to the office they were squeezing into and revealed the floor covered in blankets, alongside unpacked bags, which they slept on. They said they arrived on campus after they were told they qualified for accommodation or could return to the accommodation they occupied the previously year, only to be turned away once they arrived.

The students, who asked to remain anonymous, said their pleas to the university to assist them with temporary accommodation had fallen on deaf ears, and with exams starting next week, they feared their academic future had been compromised.

“I came from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape. I checked my status and it said "Palm Court". I thought Palm Court was a residence.Then I came to this side, only to find out it's a waiting list. So now we’ve been sleeping here, unable to even wash.

“I don’t have any belongings or family. If I had that option, I would’ve gone to them. They keep promising us that they’re going to find us a building because they can see how many of us are here. We ran out of money now because we’ve been buying takeaways and sharing with each other.”

Another student said: “We’re sleeping in this very office, guys and girls. Last week we were taken into a hall and they said its a temporary measure, but the residence mother kicked us out.

“We contacted the dean about it and he said we mustn’t go back there again. We looked for a place that’s safe, where there is no one. Two girls have already been gang-raped.”

With exams starting next week, pupils are desperate to be homed, but according to CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley there is no way the university can meet the demand for accommodation.

Kansley said she wasn’t sure if the housing department was aware of the students' position, but said she imagines the head of department, Chris Williams, would have communicated to students that the onus is on them to secure residential space.

“Issues around accommodation come up every year. Chris Williams and the acting dean have met with students on many occasions about housing. We are looking for student accommodation,” said Kansley.

With regard to a student who had residence accommodation and was denied a place when she returned, despite filling in her return form, Kansley said all students seeking accommodation have different stories and the situation needs to be escalated at the residence department.

She said the university encourages all students who qualify for funding to ensure they have completed their private boarding forms and submit them to the Financial Aid office before March 16.

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Cape Argus