Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University students block entrance, burn tyres in protest over accommodation
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Pretoria - Students at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University downed their books and pens yesterday and protested in a bid to convince management to extend the contract with three outside residences.
They blocked the entrance and burnt tyres, accusing management of failing to adequately consult with them before announcing that they had to vacate these residences by January 2022 because it was not renewing contracts with the residences.
The students said they were not looking forward to vacating Drie Lelies, Tshwane Varsity Lodge and The Heights. If they did so they would move to accommodation that was too far from their Ga-Rankuwa campus.
Student chairpersons of the residences Hope Raswiswi, Lehlohonolo Ramoipone and Tiisetso Marakalla said the university had failed to take into account the financial implications that came with such a move as some of the new residencies were 40km away from the university.
They said some were not furnished and students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and receiving a stipend of R1 500 would need to make ends meet, have refrigerators, stoves and microwaves and still have to pay relocation fees.
Ramoipone said: “Another issue is that the university wants to take us back to some residences where it once removed us, saying the residences were not compliant with the accommodations standards set by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
“To make matters worse, while some of these residences are so expensive and charge nearly R50 000 for simple rooms per annum, they are in environments that are not conducive for students and tertiary life. There are prostitutes just outside the entrances at night carrying out their business.”
Marakalla said the university had told students in June they would have to vacate their accommodation in November, but they fought back because their accommodation was “convenient, safe and affordable”.
“We are saying if they can extend, why are they not extending the contract by five years because we are comfortable there? However, they are telling us they cannot make further extensions because they already have contracts with the new accommodations and not honouring those contracts could have financial implications for them. That is what happens when you don’t consult other stakeholders adequately.”
Raswiswi said: “I come from a disadvantaged background because my parents are not working. I depend on the R1 500 from NSFAS but somehow they are expecting me to be able to save enough money in the next two months to purchase a refrigerator and other essentials, which I found available in my current residence.”
The university said it had already granted an extension to the end of January to accommodate students that would be writing supplementary assessments in the middle of January.
It said this should ensure the smooth relocation of students to residences approved for the panel of service providers at the end of January.
“The university issued a call for the submission of bids for student accommodation in 2020. Various accommodation service providers were aware of requirements and submitted their bids.
“According to the bid evaluation committee report that was approved by the adjudication committee in February 2021, Drie Lelies, The Heights and Tshwane Varsity Lodge did not comply with the policy on minimum norms and standards for student housing at public universities.
“As a result, the service providers referred to above were not approved for the 2021-23 student accommodation panel. University management is unable to rescind the decision of the adjudication committee.”
The university said failure to implement the decisions posed non-compliance risks to the university as it opened it up to legal challenges.
Moreover, should any of the students be harmed at the providers that did not comply with the policy on minimum norms and standards for student housing at public universities, the institution would have to account to the regulatory agencies.