Safety worries make it hard to concentrate on academic work, they say

UKZN students in distress over seedy residences

University of KwaZulu-Natal Hilton College campus
University of KwaZulu-Natal Hilton College campus

Several University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) students at Westville campus have raised concerns about the terrible state of the residences they were moved to after the institution allegedly failed to pay their monthly accommodation fees.

The students were moved to residences in Sydenham and Berea in Durban, which they say are not conducive to housing them as some electrical appliances are old and not functioning, there are no study desks, the beds are old and dirty and the residences are situated in places known for notorious gang violence.

The students, who spoke to Sowetan on condition of anonymity, said their problem started when the landlord at Hommi, where they used to stay, refused to take them back.

A 21-year-old final year student in biological science said during lockdown level 3 it was announced that some students could return to campus.

“When we returned the landlord complained that the institution had not paid the accommodation money. That was a surprise to us as the institution had deducted R2,750, which amounted to R16,272, for the entire semester. However, then the institution moved us to Forest Hill, an on-campus residence meant for first years as there were only a few of us,” she said.

She said things changed during level 1 when most students returned to campus.

Another 21-year-old BSc final-year student said that last week Wednesday the girls were moved to cottages in Sydenham.

“The place is known for gangs and drug dealing and there is only one security located at the gate whereas student cottages are far from the gate. Anyone can come in and there are only sliding doors. There are seven students staying in one of the cottages who have to share a toilet and a shower. We don’t have study desks, the beds are old and dirty and have bed bugs. There is only one plug socket that is working and we have to share one stove and a fridge,” she said.

A 22-year-old final-year student said the situation was the same at boy’s residences in Berea.

“There are clubs and there is a high level of crime in this area. We fear for our lives, especially because we have laptops and smart phones and these residences don’t have enough security,” he said.

A 24-year-old third-year student in biological science said one student was robbed when he got off the bus.

“It is difficult to focus on our school work because we are worrying about our safety and this place is not comfortable,” he said.

UKZN spokesperson Indu Moodley said the university was engaging with the student leadership regarding their concerns about the residences.

“Negotiations are currently under way and every effort is being made to resolve the issues raised by students,” Moodley said.

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