Johannesburg - Revelations that Capricorn TVET College student Precious Ramabulana’s killer gained access to her room through a window with a dysfunctional lock to the room she was renting in a Limpopo village has once again cast the spotlight on accommodation for students at institutions of higher learning at rural universities.
Ramabulana, 21, who was buried in Nzhelele in the Vhembe district on Friday evening, was killed by an intruder who allegedly stabbed her 52 times in the early hours of Monday.
A 28-year-old man was arrested in Nyakelang village in Botlokwa, outside Polokwane, on Wednesday morning and is expected to appear in court soon.
Wendy Matshela, SRC chairperson at the Capricorn TVET College, told Sunday Independent that accommodation for students in the village is generally poor.
The campus itself doesn’t have accommodation facilities. As a result, students rent rooms from homesteads around the Botlokwa area, paying between R500 and R1 000 a month.
“There are no burglar bars, and in some instances doors don’t lock. So we will be attacked,” she said after a memorial service for Ramabulana at the campus on Thursday afternoon.
Matshela said a student was raped outside the campus during this year’s first semester and was forced to quit her studies due to depression.
“I’m one of the students who study here late. There are no street lights. We study in a group and ensure that when we leave, we do so in a group,” she said.
SRC president Robert Bopape called on the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology to allocate resources to TVET colleges in the same way as it does at universities when it comes to the safety of students. He said the department must help to build accommodation facilities for students.
“Stop taking universities more seriously than TVET. We are more than 50 colleges in this country. We are more than universities. We need infrastructure. TVET colleges, it is these same centres that will produce engineers. It is these same centres that will produce future artisans,” he said.
Reacting to the brutal killing, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Dr Blade Nzimande said the department was finalising the Policy Framework on Gender-Based Violence in the Post School Education and Training System, which would be published by the end of March 2020 for implementation.
He said he had “engaged all of our institutions, both universities and TVET colleges, to improve campus safety and security” and that he would be getting a report from the ministerial task team appointed to advise on issues of sexual harassment and gender-based violence and harm at institutions,focusing on institutional policy alignment and initiatives to address gender-based violence at universities
At the memorial service, Brigadier LammiTsebe, commander of the police cluster which includes Botlokwa, said the suspect, who he referred to as an animal, gained access to Ramabulana’s room through a window which couldn’t close.
He called on students to find proper accommodation and not try to save money by taking up the cheapest available accommodation.
Matshela said the incident had rattled students at a time when they faced exams.
“The college has provided social workers to offer counselling to students. These are the kind of measures that will help students. Students can’t sleep, can’t study.
“When you hear a door banging, you think you are being attacked. But we hope the counselling will help students,” she added.
Ramabulana lived in one of the rooms in a four-bedroom house in Joel section of Mokomene village, about 700m from the campus.
Her elderly landlady lived in another room, while a fellow student lived in another.
Limpopo MEC for Community Safety Namane Dickson Masemola said police had recovered cellphones “which possibly belonged to Precious, blood-stained clothes, and possibly even the murder weapon”.
“We are confident that we have the right suspect in custody and that he has a case to answer,” he said.