This week, affected students protested over the conditions of the residences. This led to UKZN suspending its academic programme at the Westville campus until Friday.
A fourth-year student living at a residence on the campus said it was unfortunate that some people associated the protests with the poor wi-fi connection.
The reality, she said, was that students had had enough of their living conditions. “We want people to see for themselves, and for something to be done,” said the student who would not be named for fear of victimisation.
“We have kept quiet for far too long. Everything is wrong with this place,” said the student.
She claimed the Department of Student Residence Affairs was aware of the situation, but ignored their cries.
“When individuals complain, they make hurtful side comments because we come from poor areas,” she alleged.
“The roof in my room is leaking, so I complained that when it rains, I have to mop up the water. I was told that since I come from a poor background, I am used to mopping.
“One student complained about bed bugs, and she was told that it was a privilege for her to sleep on a bed because she slept on the floor at home. Another complained about cold water, and the response was that she should be grateful to get water from a shower because where she came from, she bathed in a bowl.”
The student said they paid R28 818 annually for accommodation which included a bed, table, chair and eight rolls of toilet paper a month. She also said one of the bathrooms had been under construction since April this year.
“Our residence has four floors, 16 bathrooms and more than 300 women. But right, now only eight bathrooms are usable. Some of these bathrooms have faulty toilets and showers. One student had a rat run down her back while taking a shower.”
She also said rats had made holes in the building and some also eat the personal belongings of students.
The students have taken to Twitter under #Kwazekwanzima (it is very difficult) to post all the ills of the residences.
“Complaining on Twitter helped, because we woke up to warm water. So it’s not that they can’t help us, they just don’t want to,” the student said.
She said summer was approaching, and because of the rain, they would have to re-arrange their rooms and remove appliances because rainwater seeped in. Even the study hall does not have lights. The building is old and parts of the passages are rundown.
Normah Zondo, UKZN acting executive director: corporate relations division, said the suspension of classes would allow the university management to engage with student leadership to find amicable solutions.
“The university management has responded to the memorandum that was submitted by the student representative council and made a commitment to resolve matters regarding maintenance of amenities in certain student residences, eg problems with wi-fi connection, matters of academic exclusion, the shuttle services’ timetable and NSFAS administration,” Zondo said.