Cape Town - A shack hastily erected on Monday as a form of protest below Jameson steps at UCT has drawn attention to an accommodation shortage at the university, which the institution admits is a problem.
The Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement at the university has charged there is racial discrimination in accommodation placement. UCT has denied the claim.
Dumisani Jack, 22, is among the 83 students feeling the strain of having no housing.
A first year civil engineering student from Khayelitsha, Jack said obtaining a degree was a way of freeing his family from poverty.
Since the start of the academic year, Jack has been living at the River View residence, close to Observatory train station, a temporary solution by the university.
Jack transferred from Stellenbosch University to UCT this month.
He failed his first year at Stellenbosch because he struggled to study in Afrikaans.
Acceptance to UCT meant “being a step closer” to reaching his dream.
“Coming here was my way of escaping racial profiling, linguistic and financial segregation.
“I just want to study and get my degree so that I can get my family out of poverty,” Jack said.
The eldest of five children, his parents are unemployed.
Jack is dependent on financial aid.
Travelling from home to the campus every day was not an option for him, he said.
Taxi fare would cost him R40 a day, and he still had to buy lunch.
“Travelling from home is not feasible, it’s costly. Getting accommodation would help me reach my academic goals.”
Another first year student, Silulundi Coki from the Eastern Cape, only found out that the university could not accommodate her when she arrived in Cape Town.
“The reason I wanted to stay in residence is because my mother can’t afford to pay for a place for me to stay off campus because she is unemployed. We are a big family so studying while living at home would have been difficult for me,” she said.
Coki is sharing a room with five students in temporary accommodation, but said it was not conducive to learning because she had no privacy.
An estimated 700 beds which are normally freed up in January, could not be released this year due to deferred exams.
There were outstanding financial aid decisions and an increase in the number of students in need of accommodation, University spokesman Elijah Moholola said.
“The university has only 6 680 beds for a total of 27 000 students.
“Therefore, some 75 percent of students live outside of the residence system.
“We are appealing to private property owners in Cape Town that may have rooms, cottages available to step forward and to assist us in placing the students who are still in need of accommodation and who are in temporary accommodations at present,” he said.
The Rhodes Must Fall Movement (RMF) said they erected the one-roomed corrugated iron structure as a representation of township life.
A toilet stall and two braai stands have been erected alongside the shack which had has been cordoned off with red and white tape.
Inside the shack is a mattress, a table and a two-plate stove.
The outside of the shack has been painted green.
The RMF’s Masixole Mlandu said the shack was the movement’s way of fighting for decolonisation.
“We were promised that no child would be excluded from the university on the basis of affordability. Today we know of people who do not have a place to stay because they owe the university money.”
Chumani Maxwele, also of RMF, alleged that at least 20 percent of accommodation on the campus had been allocated to American and European students. “They (UCT) keep telling us that they were given 1 percent. It’s a lie. Why put American students who are fully funded in accommodation when there are native students in need of residence? They say it’s for integration but at whose expense?
“Black students are always on the waiting list.”
Moholola refuted the RMF’s claims that accommodation allocations were based on race.
“It must also be noted it is the very action of RMF in interfering with staff and operations at UCT that compounded the accommodation issue as various offices that where meant to deal with the accommodation issues had to be closed due to RMF interference.”
UCT Student Representative Council president Rorisang Moseli said they were working closely with management to address the accommodation problems. “For the past few weeks we have been fighting and looking for accommodation.
“We want to ensure that students are not left destitute.”
Maxwele said the shack would remain on the campus until the residence problems were resolved.