Senior management of the Durban University of Technology have condemned the use of live ammunition on students saying they would act swiftly once competent authorities have completed their investigations. Picture: Zainul Dawood
Durban - CRAMPED living quarters, and apathy from Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) student housing department towards their plight, is what protesting students say they’ve had to deal with for years.

“You can’t dream big when you live here,” said a student who, like his peers with him, declined to be named fearing retribution from the university.

The group of students walked Sunday Tribune through student residences, and explained their list of demands to the university.

They were among those protesting outside the Steve Biko Campus in Durban when student Mlungisi Madonsela was shot dead.

A private security guard belonging to DUT’s contracted security company, Xcellent Security Services, allegedly fired the bullet that killed Madonsela.

After Madonsela’s death, one of the students’ demands, the insourcing of security guards, fell away. “We don’t care about that anymore; look what they did to us,” the student said.

The students are demanding that all those who were prevented from registering due to financial constraints be allowed to register, and that all BTech students who met the criteria be funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

In a separate interview, Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy secretary-general, Sfezo Gwala, opened up about the emotional trauma students experienced when NSFAS denied an application for funding.

“You must prove your poverty; you have to find your mother’s death certificate and show it to them... and you are still denied help to study for your degree, when you are almost there.”

The students also want a system of “first-come-first-served” to replace the system of booking appointments at clinics. 

“You don’t choose (to become) sick; we need to be able to access the clinic immediately when we are sick,” said another student.

Among their main demands is the shutdown of residences they believe are unfit for habitation. On the walkabout in residences in Berea and Glenwood, the group showed cramped living spaces with minimal space to study. Three or four single beds were in the bedrooms in the Berea residence.

“There are seven of us living on one floor, using one bathroom and toilet. If someone is showering, we have to wait to use the toilet and rush for the next person to go, and we all have to leave at the same time for our classes,” said a student from the Eastern Cape.

A single concrete basin outside the building was the only facility at least 20 students had to wash their clothes.

At the Glenwood residence, there was almost no privacy as students could only access their rooms by walking through other rooms and bathrooms. Both residences were privately-owned and leased by DUT.

DUT vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu, said agreement was reached on most issues at a meeting between the SRC and Student Services management.

The university could not change NSFAS rules regarding funding for BTech students. It also disagreed with the SRC over its demand for the cancellation of contracts with the owners of residences.

Mthembu said: “A team of officials including SRC members will verify allegations being made about the state of some buildings.”

Sunday Tribune