Vaal varsity crumbles

Johannesburg – Students at Vaal University of Technology (VUT) in Vanderbijlpark are up in arms claiming management refuses to hear their calls for better living and learning conditions.

The university, which accommodates on average 25 000 students, was trending on social media this week as many students complained about not receiving book and food allowances.

Lefa Tshabalala, the interim student representative council’s secretary-general, said students live under horrendous conditions and that the renovations taking place at the institution were slow and frustrating.

“We were complaining about the main residence. The cleaners come in once a week.The toilets are filthy. The rooms are falling apart, with taps not working and showerheads are non-existent. There are no sanitisers where we stay,” Tshabalala said.

Vaal university of technology

“There is no Covid-19 protocol. We haven’t been given food vouchers since 2019. Many are going hungry. For fi ve days, we had no electricity because the cable was stolen in the area. But how does a university not have a back-up plan for such instances?”

Director of marketing and public relations at VUT, Kediemetse Mokotsi, said the buildings found not to be in a suitable state to accommodate students were commissioned for upgrades, as well as renovations

“There are no students allocated in these buildings as renovations will be implemented in the 2021 and 2022 academic years. The university maintenance team has been replacing showers, basins and toilets as reported by the students,” said Mokotsi.

About the food vouchers, Mokotsi said there is no policy or any guideline for so-called food vouchers, adding that the university charges a levy that is used for the funding of the housing committee.

She added that with regards to electricity issues, the university has already completed emergency lights project for such disruptions of the municipality services.

“The back-up generators are on the project strategic planning for 2022-2024 as it requires a large funding. In addition, we are installing water tanks for backup water supply in case of disruption of services by the municipality.”

VUT finance team met the interim student council on Tuesday.

Vaal university of technology

The university’s statement points out that the interim council proposed that the financial aid office should focus on disbursing R5 200 allowances to students, and that students decide themselves what learning material to purchase. The two parties have not found each other on the matter. Meanwhile, Tshabalala is still trying to get his studies back on track after he was suspended following protests that took place on March 29 to 31.

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