Students protest over ‘poor living conditions’ at residence

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) students who are beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) embarked on a mini protest outside their student residence in Wodehouse Street last week, following countless alleged robberies at the premises recently.

Speaking to The Rep, the students who were chanting and burning tyres outside the property said they had safety concerns as the student accommodation was targeted by criminals and as a result three break-ins had occurred in the previous month. “We are not safe. The burglar doors do not have padlocks. Three rooms have been broken into and laptops, clothes, blankets, food and cellphones were stolen. This has been ongoing and we have tried to communicate with the landlord but he does not stay here, he is in Durban. He promised that he would have an electric fence installed but said he would not replace any of the stolen items.” The students said they had decided to protest due to the landlord’s poor conduct and the unhygienic living conditions at the facility.

The Rep also spoke to one of the students’ parents, who did not want to be named, who had also raised safety concerns claiming that the premises were not secure enough to protect the young girls. “My daughter had come home that weekend and she received a call from one of the students to say her room had been broken into. She was scared to even go back because these criminals are capable of doing anything. Our children’s lives are at stake. If they are robbed of their study material how will they study? Surely there are requirements that these premises and the owners have to adhere to? NSFAS pays a lot of money for student accommodation. How was this place approved? I called the landlord because I needed answers and he said I must speak to management at the university,” the parent said.

WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said an incident of theft had been reported and the university was aware of the problem. She said the robber had jumped over a fence at the premises and stolen clothes from a wash line. “The landlord refunded the affected student. After this incident, the landlord put barbed wire on the fence. There was a second incident after a student party when an intruder seems to have followed the students and broke a door at the residence.”

Tukwayo said there was a team consisting of students and staff that conducted inspections before residences were accredited. She said the residence was approved for accreditation by the students and staff. “The university has a contract and a service level agreement where the landlord must attend to problems within a specified period of time, for example if a lock breaks, a sink blocks or a light is fused. These must be fixed within a reasonable time.”

She added that both the deputy director and the campus rector had open communication with the student representative council to address and resolve such matters.

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