UFH opens R400m residence

A NEW R400m disability-friendly student residence was opened at the University of Fort Hare Alice campus on Thursday.
A BIG HELP: A NEW R400m disability-friendly student residence was opened at the University of Fort Hare Alice campus on Thursday.
Image: SUPPLIED

A new R400m disability-friendly student residence was opened on Thursday at the University of Fort Hare, bringing much-needed relief to the shortage of student accommodation in Alice.

The residence, built to accommodate 1,437 students, took 18 months to construct.

Students welcomed the new residence, saying the Alice campus student village would go a long way in addressing accommodation shortages.

UFH institutional advancement director Tandi Mapukata said this was the largest infrastructure project undertaken by UFH in its 103-year history.

“The infrastructure will transform the Alice campus by providing high quality student housing in a village setting, to an additional 1,437 students.”

Key features of the development are a new student centre and a dedicated postgraduate accommodation block.

“The university’s new student housing development is a lead project in the department of higher education & training’s (DHET) student housing infrastructure programme, which aims to significantly improve the number of beds and quality of student housing on both rural and urban campuses countrywide,” Mapukata said.

She said the project was the outcome of a partnership between the UFH, the department of higher education and training, and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

“The development would not have been possible without R122m in infrastructure funding provided by DHET and a R28m European Union-funded direct capital grant made available through the Infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa (IIPSA).”

She said the developer, Stag African, also designed and completed 610 student beds as part of phase one of the project. Construction on phase two will continue until October 2020.

“Students will take occupation in a phased approach.

“Once completed, the student village will boast 2,047 student beds in a landscaped setting.

“This will improve the wellbeing of students and set a standard for dignified student housing and a socially integrated design.”

SRC president Alungile Kamtshe said the intervention would have a positive impact on student’s results.

“We are happy but at the same time we want to caution management on maintenance.

“We will encourage students not to participate in any form of vandalism at the structure so that it can remain for a long time for future generations.

“This will create an accessible and conducive learning environment for students.

“We marvel at the fact that stakeholders in the world joined hands in ensuring that such a project became a reality,” Kamtshe said.

He said thousands of students on the campus had struggled with accommodation for several years.

Delivering the keynote address at the official opening, DHET director general Gweba Qonde said the student village project was the biggest project in the history of the country’s 26 universities.

“We realised there was a dire need for student accommodation in the system,” said Qonde

“At that time only about 20% of the student population was housed at university-owned student accommodation.”

The department would need R7bn to provide 30,000 rooms at institutions per year over a 10-year period.

 bhongoj@tisoblackstar.co.za

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