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The plight of students at the University of Venda (UniVen) received attention at the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology meeting on Tuesday.

Committee Member Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said living conditions and sanitation at the University of Venda and other historically disadvantaged institutions is disheartening. “The white paper is clear on what we need to achieve, but the conditions at the UniVen are inhumane. What is happening there is a human rights issue,” Ms Mkhatshwa said.

“How do you explain mobile toilets at a university? Some students sleep on floors, as there are no beds. Those mobile toilets are sometimes full and don’t work. We need to do something about this urgently,” she said.

Ms Mkhatshwa said the committee and officials must be proactive in dealing with challenges. The department should prepare a report on the use of mobile toilets at UniVen. “Disparities and polarisation in the higher education space is so great. The cheapest residence at Wits University far exceeds the best residence at UniVen. There are vast differences.”

The Department of Higher Education briefed the committee on the White Paper on Post-School Education and told the committee that black universities have challenges with governance issues.

The Director General, Mr Gwebs Qonde, revealed that UniVen received a large proportion of the department’s budget allocation. “These resources, as appropriated by Parliament, are not well-managed. Corrupt practices collapse governance at universities, and when that happens everything else becomes impossible to manage,” Mr Qonde said. Challenges arise when society and leaders tolerate corrupt practices and do not confront them, he said.

Both the University of Fort Hare and the Vaal University of Technology are under administration, he told the committee.

Committee Chairperson Mr Phillemon Mapulane asked the department to prepare a report on all the universities that are under administration, including their infrastructure challenges. “The committee wants to get a sense of what is happening in each of the universities and understand the issues,” he said.

Sibongile Maputi
21 August 2019