On Friday, the 1st of February, students from Sol Plaatje University marched to the examination hall where registration took place, to halt all activity. Their cry, “no residence, no registration,” was a call to management to resolve the situation. The protest was to asseverate their dissatisfaction with the insufficient number of beds available to students. The SRC promised all students that they would receive placement in their respective residences, else the final day of registration would not commence.
“We as the SRC have seen that students are becoming frustrated and we are also frustrated because we have worked tirelessly this week in terms of sorting out accommodation. Management has promised us a system. But the system is failing us. We have students who have been moved from one room to another. We have students who have been put in rooms four-four, five-five, because they are squatting. Management cannot provide us with enough rooms. Last year they promised us nine hundred and thirty-five beds. Currently, we don’t even have half of those beds. Students have been placed at Ous Meisies Lodge and even after that placement there is still a surplus of students without accommodation. We cannot allow any university activities to commence, whether it is registration, examinations or classes next week, nothing will commence, unless all students have accommodation. The DVC was here and said she will get back to us with the list of the students’ names and the rooms. But if they do not do so, nothing will commence,” the spokesperson of the SRC, Itumeleng Senye, commented.
The turbulence caused even more confusion, as first-year students had great difficulty settling in, with some of them in temporary rooms and others squatting with students who have been placed permanently. “I don’t really mind being in a temporary room but I’ve been allocated a temporary room on a male floor, so it’s difficult to shower or go to the toilet,” remarked first-year, Thokozile Maratele (19), from Rustenburg.
Cheslyn, also one of the first-years, lamented that he did not know where he would be placed. “My parents have already left for Namaqualand. I don’t know where my permanent room is. I don’t know how I will transport my things either”.
The protest lasted for approximately four hours, after which Prof. Jean Baxen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Acting Vice-Chancellor, had come to an agreement with the SRC and provided them with the lists of all residences and the names of students allocated to them.
“There were two big issues that students were unhappy about. The one was the residences and the perceived lack of space for all students. The other was transport to some of the residences that are a bit far away. With regards to the residences, there is enough space for everyone. What we did this morning, as a solution, is that we gave the SRC all the lists of all the residences that we have and they realized that most of the students are placed. And we still have several vacancies and a number of beds that we can still place students in. The second issue around transport is one that we recognize and we realize that as a growing institution, we have to get transport. Students were standing for long hours waiting to be taken to their residences because we only had one mode of transportation. We then hired a number of other vans to transport our students and as you can now see, everybody is happy. Obviously, we still have some things we need to iron out as a growing institution, our resources are very stretched. Everything will go smoothly now, we will commence with the first years’ ceremony. We are going to have two welcomes because they are so many students. Registration is continuing,” stated Baxen.
The University Management and the Student Representative Council are engaged in discussions to find solutions to the problems that led to the suspension of classes.