Johannesburg - Wits University students have revealed that some students who are struggling with accommodation have been sleeping in libraries while others have been forced to sleep on street corners and ATM alleyways since the start of the academic year.
These are some of the assertions that were made by student activists leading this year's protest outside the institution yesterday (Wed).
It is reported that the accommodation crisis is affecting more than 1 000 learners who are yet to find accommodation within the university, more than three weeks after the start of the academic year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, a small group of students were protesting in a bid to get the university to expand its interventions to solve some of these problems.
The student representative council (SRC) gathered students in the early hours of Wednesday and blocked the Yale Road North entrance on Empire Road to have their demands heard.
The student representatives also accused the university and student finance body, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS), of not being genuine in their negotiations and failing to meet the demands made by the students.
Among these is the proposal to allow all students who owe R150 000 or less to register for the 2023 academic year.
They also demand that the R10 000 upfront fee for Wits residences be waived and students be allowed to move in.
"Our demands, which have been forwarded to the university management, are clear. We want the university to allocate R30 million towards hardship accommodations. We are also demanding that the NSFAS R45 000 cap for residences be scrapped with immediate effect. We feel that the university can solve the crisis that we are facing, especially since NSFAS has been failing us for years."
"We believe that the university has the funds as they have been investing in infrastructure for years. They can and should be investing in students," Wits SRC coordinator Karabo Matloga said.
Jackson Mdluli, from the EFF's student command, said there seems to be some form of collusion between the university and NSFAS, who he said are being economical with the truth.
"We have more than 400 students who have come forward. I am sure there are more students on that list. We are speaking about a university that is known for being a word peddler that has promised to do something. However, I feel that there has not been a plan of action to resolve these matters, and it is just promises upon promises," Mdluli said.
The university said it had committed R28 million (an increase from R10 million) to the Wits Hardship Fund this year, adding that it has, to date, added more than 500 students who have been funded at a cost of R18.1 million.
It also said that more than 350 beds had been secured from accredited private accommodation service providers to assist students in need, including those sleeping in libraries and other spaces.
"A number of other concessions have also been made, including allowing students who owe R10 000 or less to register, allowing students whose total household income is below R600 000 to apply for registration assistance by paying 50% of the outstanding debt due and by making an arrangement to pay the balance of the debt during the course of the academic year, and allowing students who owe R15 000 or less to graduate," the university said.