We are women, we are vulnerable: Wits student pleads for affordable res

“All I want is accommodation, nothing much but a roof over my head.” These words were uttered by a Wits University final-year media studies and politics student participating in a protest on the Johannesburg campus.

Protesting students at Wits University disrupted classes on February 4 2019 over registration and accommodation problems.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

Maggie Ramoloko, originally from Limpopo, said on Tuesday she had found out that she would no longer receive assistance from the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), for the year when she was meant to complete her degree.

“I don’t have funding, NSFAS dropped me. I don’t know what will happen to me this year because I can’t travel to and from my Pretoria [extended family] home every day … By the time classes end, I will be tired, drained and might not even afford the taxi/bus fare,” she told TimesLIVE.

Ramoloko accused the university of not caring about the wellbeing of its students.

“If the management cared, they would be here. All we are asking for is accommodation,” she said.

Wits students embarked on a second day of protest action on Tuesday, demanding that classes be halted until registration, accommodation and hunger grievances were attended to.

Mmabatho Dooka, a first-year LLB student, also requires assistance after experiencing difficulty in accessing student aid.

“I do not have anywhere to stay,” said Dooka, originally from Hammanskraal. “For a rural girl like me, coming here was a big deal – like a privilege that I worked hard for.

“I was hoping that I would study peacefully and make my mother proud.”

Dooka said her dream of becoming a lawyer seemed gloomy as she was rejected by NSFAS.

“My mother is a single parent, a beneficiary of Sassa (the social grant). I do not understand how I was rejected, which is why I feel strongly about this protest.”

Dooka said she was lucky because a neighbour from back home was temporarily providing accommodation for her.

“What was going to happen to me if I didn’t know that man? Imagine what will happen to everyone else who comes from the Eastern Cape and knows no one? We are women and are vulnerable,” she told TimesLIVE.

The university beefed up its security after students embarked on a protest on Monday. In the main campus, more than 10  security guards were deployed at entrances and about 30 were deployed at the Solomon Mahlangu building.

Student representative council president Sisanda Aluta said the students were calling for the vice-chancellor to return from Cape Town and address their grievances – because other structures had failed them.

“The VC must come back and address students, we won’t bow down, we will fight management with all we have.

“We are saying students must register, they must be housed. Then we are going to cease fire and go to class,” said Aluta.

Dean of student affairs Jerome September spoke to students and asked for more time as he was “working hard” on resolving the protesters’ grievances.

On Monday, university spokesperson Shirona Patel said senior officials were working with student leaders, particularly around the deployment of the Wits hardship fund.

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