UKZN residences home to rats, leaking roofs
Durban - ‘That ceiling is cracking,” says a student, pointing to one side of her room. “I have decided to move my bed to the other side because I am worried it might collapse on me while I am sleeping,” she said.
She is one of several students who have complained about the state of the Block O residence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Westville Campus. Students led a violent protest, clashing with police in the past few days, leading to classes on the campus being halted until tomorrow.
They complained about the state of residences, both on campus and outside, wi-fi, and financial aid.
Block O is home to more than 300 students. Concerned about being vilified over the protest, the students laid bare their living conditions that have left them feeling unsafe and exploited.
“It is not just the outside residences that have problems, this residence is falling apart and we have been complaining since 2016,” said another student.
Students asked not to be named for fear they might be “blacklisted” and be unable to secure accommodation inside campus for the rest of their academic careers.
“If you complain, they (the residence committee), simply block you from residences and tell you to find your own place,” said one student.
Inside Block O, parts of the residence resemble a construction site, with floors covered in black plastic because of the renovations, and some corridors are dark because light bulbs are broken.
Students said there were several defects in their rooms, such as leaking roofs, as well as broken showers and kitchens - of which there are a shortage.
There were also rats and ants and, on occasion, they said they had found snakes in their study room.
The students highlighted almost 10 different rooms with different problems inside the multistorey building.
In one room, a student pointed to a gaping hole in the ceiling, which she said rats come through.
“I am terrified of rats, but the people from maintenance came and put ‘something’ in there so the rats have stopped coming down.”
Another room has a cracked floor, peeling paint and what appears to be mould on the walls and ceiling.
“I lived here in 2016 and when its rains, the water flows from this room all the way down to a room on the ground floor. I demanded to be moved, but the student living here now is facing the same problem,” said another student.
One of the students living in an outside residence said that while there were bad buildings, he lived in a well kept property.
“The problem was water and electricity, but that is being fixed.”
UKZN said it was aware of the accommodation constraints and said it made every effort to provide an on-campus living environment that was conducive to learning.
“The O Block residence is undergoing extensive renovations. The refurbishment includes roof renovations, ceiling replacement and ablutions upgrades, which is an extensive capital project. The building was last fumigated on July31,” said Normah Zondo, acting executive director: corporate relations at UKZN.
She said the kitchenettes were less than a year old and had all the required equipment.
Department of Higher Education and Training spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said the minister was aware of the strike and had asked the director general to intervene and assist the university.