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Students build shacks on campus in protest against accommodation shortage

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We have nowhere else to go, say CPUT students

Photo of shack being demolished
Students erected shacks on the Bellville campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to protest against a shortage of accommodation. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
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Students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) have put up shacks on the Bellville campus to highlight problems with accommodation.

Last week classes were disrupted at the university’s four campuses as students protested.

The shacks were first erected on Monday afternoon after the students were evicted from a conference room where they had been staying.

Mlahleki Mahoana from Ficksburg in the Free State says the students have nowhere else to go. “We find ourselves in this situation because the university refuses to accommodate us and they closed the conference room saying it is not a place to sleep. Where should we go?”

Security guards demolished the shacks, but the students brought more material and built again.

“We are not disturbing any campus activities by erecting these structures. We have classes to attend but we must still fight for accommodation. We have to wait at the housing department all day for the release of names. If you are in class your room is given to someone else,” says Mahoana.

First-year student Kwandiwe Dadlana says the university gives priority to women students and accommodation for men is hard to find.

“These structures are to show the situation we find ourselves in as black students in this crime scene called South Africa.”

He said if the university did not open new residences, the students would build structures in offices.

SRC chairperson Yamkela Nompetsheni supported the students’ demands. “CPUT has taken no action to attend student grievances,” he said. “We sat with the management and came to an agreement that students will be placed, but they did not honour the agreement.”

Dean of Student Affairs Prem Coopoo said the university could only provide accommodation for one third of the 35,000 students at CPUT. “Over the past year we have increased our beds by 11.5%. The lack of student housing is a national issue. Like other higher education institutions, we are not able to accommodate every single student who studies at CPUT.

“We allocate accommodation to those students who applied on time, are registered and who meet residence admission criteria. We cannot place students who applied late or not at all, although we have committed to contacting late applicants if beds become available.”

She also said the university was spending R35 million to upgrade two of the largest residences in Bellville (Freedom Square) and Cape Town (St Peters). “The downside is that this renovation contributes to the lack of beds for 2019. However, other leased and accredited student accommodation has been secured to partially offset this. CPUT will have more beds from mid-year.”

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TOPICS:  Tertiary Education