Students find refuge in church as the #UPResCrisis continues

On Wednesday, relief organisation Gift of the Givers donated hygiene packs to the students without accommodation at the University of Pretoria (UP). Some students have found refuge at the Elim Church after they were chased away from the Student Centre by campus security and bouncers, where they had been sleeping earlier this week.

“A few days ago, we decided to sleep in the Student Centre; we were tired of sleeping where we were sleeping and bothering people. Bouncers and campus security came and started harassing us,” said third year UP student, Mathapelo Maganedisha.

Management said what became known as the #UPResCrisis was all staged. It says it has footage that shows students pretending to be asleep, while others take pictures of them.

“We also have reason to believe that the pictures of students apparently without accommodation on social media have been staged,” it said in a statement.

“I don’t understand how you can say someone is doing a photoshoot and pretending they don’t have a place to say when they have a bed waiting for them. To them we are just playing around [and] we want attention,” Maganedisha told The Daily Vox.

Maganedisha is one of the students who is without a place to stay at UP. She lived in a campus residence last year but is still on the waiting list to be placed in the same residence this year.

Clara Matunhu of the Gift of the Givers told The Daily Vox that they had given out 85 hygiene packs on Wednesday.

“We received an email saying students don’t have accommodation and toiletries so we responded and gave them hygiene packs,” she said.

The organisation is also donating food to the students.

Pastor Immanuel Landman of the Elim Church told The Daily Vox that they have 28 students staying at the premises, one of whom is pregnant.

“I have emailed the names of the students to the University to see if they can assist us and resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” he said, “the students obviously can’t stay like this”.

Maganedisha said students reliant on the National and Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) cannot afford private accommodation. She said the NSFAS budget for accommodation does not cover even half of the rent that private accommodation costs, let alone the deposit.

She knows of one private accommodation in Sunnyside that is affordable for NSFAS students but said it is “not in good condition for any human to stay there”. She said the beds are made of bricks and that there are complaints of insect bites.

Students without university housing, that live in areas far from campus or in other provinces, cannot afford to travel to class every day, said Maganedisha.

Like all universities in South Africa, UP says its residences can only house approximately 15% of the student population. “For this reason, some of the key criteria used by the university in residence admission is academic eligibility, academic achievement, financial need and year of study with preference given to first years,” the university said.

“We are performing academically, we are deserving of residences,” said Maganedisha. She said students were promised an audience with management by the Temporary Student Committee earlier this week but it hasn’t happened yet.

Additional reporting and featured image by Iram Youssef.