Wits University students from the Yale Village residence say they will escalate protests over a lack of services if management does not address their demands.
On Thursday morning, students barricaded the university’s Empire Road entrance in protest of high residence fees, lack of services and security issues, amongst other things.
The Yale Village Residence is a new residence that was created for Wits students who had previously been living in the Parktown Village (PKV) and Esselen residences. Both were closed down last year due to safety concerns.
Students say they are paying exorbitant fees at Yale Village and yet have not received services that they have paid for, such as cleaning and access to WiFi for the past four months.
The complaints have been brewing for months. In March, students staged a sit-in outside the Dean of Students’ office.
Sean Malema, a member of the Yale Village House Committee, told The Daily Vox students first informed management of their concerns in early March but they were ignored. “Yesterday [Thursday] only because we blocked the road is when they actually came out and are trying to act. The other times when we came to campus no one could see what oppression we’re going through,” he said
A student who did not wish to be named said that Wits University and Res Publica, the company that owns that residence have a disagreement and students are not getting most of the services that they paid for.
Students handed over a memorandum of demands to the university’s COO, Fana Sibanyoni on Thursday afternoon and gave management until the end of the day to respond.
A meeting took place on Thursday between university management, Residence Life, Res Publica and house committee and residents of the Yale Village Residence. The university responded to some of the students’ demands, such as increasing cleaning staff, providing WiFi and addressing the issues around the bus services. Management and students have not yet finalised the date by which all the issues will be resolved, however.
— Yale Village (@YalevillageRes) April 21, 2017
On Friday morning, management said they were ready to talk to students and address their concerns over accommodation issues.
Babano Mataboge, a BA student who lives at Yale Village told The Daily Vox there are only four cleaners, and that bathrooms and showers are often dirty, and that rooms are only cleaned once a month.
Safety is also a concern for students. On the safety issue, Mataboge says, “Two of my friends were walking from campus in the early hours of the morning and there were men following them. They started running to the residence and one of them was able to get through the biometric system. The other had to run to the security office. The security who saw them running didn’t do anything,” she said.
Following Thursday evening’s meeting, the university has extended the night bus from 18:30 to 00:00 and doubled the number of cleaners on site. Temporary WiFi and data is to be put in place by the university until a permanent wifi connection can be provided for students. The university has also agreed to provide WiFi within three months, according to the house committee.
Tshiamo Diole, secretary of Yale Village Residence House Committee, told The Daily Vox they are disappointed the university management waits for students to burn things before they respond.
“If the university does not meet our demands, we will make the university ungovernable,” he said.
Malema reiterated that protests may escalate if students’ demands are not met.
”We’re going to have other students from other residences joining in. This doesn’t only affect us,” he said.
Nkosinathi Maluleke, chairperson of the All Residences Council, told The Daily Vox that they support the Yale Village Residence protest in principle as these issues affect all residences.
The ARC stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of Yale Village.✊ pic.twitter.com/gJ6lWPcCU6
— All Res Council (@WITS_ARC) April 20, 2017
Wits University communications manager, Buhle Zuma said the Dean of Students, Dr Puleng LenkaBula has met with the house committee and that there are ongoing meetings to address the issues.
Res Publica could not be reached for comment.