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Committee shocked by student overcrowding at Mthatha campuses

Jan 25, 2018
Committee shocked by student overcrowding at Mthatha campuses

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training on Thursday said that it was shocked to learn the use of squatting by a vast number of students at Water Sisulu University (WSU) and King Sabata Dalindyebo TVET College (KSD TVET College) student residences in Mthatha.

In a statement, the Committee said that it received a first-hand experience of the situation at WSU’s Nelson Mandela Drive Campus where a single room accommodates three or more students due to limited student accommodation and the non-existence of access controls in the student residences.

"Also, both WSU’s Zamukulungisa and Nelson Mandela Drive Campuses have decaying student residence, lecture rooms and recreational facilities something that poses a grave challenge to student development," the Committee said.

"Members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU) and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) raised their concerns on overcrowding and lack of maintenance of student residence.

"Further to the situation of student accommodation, WSU’s SRC President, Mr Siphelo Mkhuzangwe indicated that the communication breakdown between the university management and students hinders the processes of resolving many issues relating to student development.

"NEHAWU and NTEU representatives expressed similar views, stating that labour unions are not consulted on important issues, and that there is no transparency and the university management is not accountable."

The Committee said that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Rob Midgley, briefed the Committee on the maintenance backlog faced by the university, the plans to expand student accommodation and on progress on the 2018 registration process.

"The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Connie September said that it is imperative that all stakeholders find a way to engage each other in order to address the vast amount of issues at WSU.

"While the Committee noticed a similar problem of squatting of students at the KSD TVET College (Ngcobo Campus), the SRC Chairperson Mr Mgweba Yanelisa refused to comment on it and only said that students should not be made to travel up and down to register, due to the lack of staff," it added.

"The Committee also noted the dissatisfaction of students relating to the R500.00 per month fees towards accommodation, which many families are unable to afford.

"The Committee also noted the frustration around National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding which, according to the College Principal, Mr Zola Ndodana is the reason behind the decline on student enrolment at entry level.

"While the college’s shortfall of R8 million on student funding was disputed by NSFAS officials, Ms September instructed both the College Management and NSFAS to provide the Committee with a report by Friday, 26 January 2018."

It said that registration of students at both WSU and KSD TVET College is running smoothly and any additional registration is being taken care off. Students welcomed the provision of free tertiary education for the poor.

The Committee is on a week-long oversight in the Eastern Cape to assess the institutions’ readiness for the 2018 academic year, in particular admissions and registration processes.

It is in the process of engaging institutions on their plans to expand infrastructure, in particular student accommodation and other teaching and learning facilities, and some of the administrative issues that may impact on the academic enterprise.