Founding member and lecturer in Education and Development Ms Jane Quin said: ‘The purpose of the Collective has been to share resources and needs more equitably to ensure access for all who feel they have a right to be here.’
Upon hearing about the Centre, UKZN’s Professor Albert Modi welcomed and supported it.
Through pooling resources, supplemented by donations from the public, the Centre assisted just over 600 students in the first week of its existence. Meals for 15 beneficiaries were provided on the first day, reaching a peak of close to 100 at one point.
About 30 meals are provided at each of the twice daily servings. Assistance from fellow students, staff and a few sponsors, have managed to provide at least two meals a day to at least 100 students, while providing information and sharing knowledge on accommodation.
Although it is not a long-term arrangement, the Centre is responding to a need that arises every year. When the ‘annual shutdown’ began this year, it was clear from conversations with students that they wanted to address immediate practical issues for those needing help to get started. The vulnerability of people without food, shelter and care is well known to students.
‘Many of our students come from deep rural areas and impoverished homes. Families or communities have already scraped together money to get a child to town to embark on a potentially life changing opportunity of studying at university.
‘There often aren’t the additional economic and social resources for bridging the gap between arrival and settling through stressful periods of negotiating the complex processes of registration and accommodation, while waiting on funding. Students can easily be without food and shelter; and trusted advisors when they’re new to the space,’ Quin said.
‘Students who don’t know who to turn to during this time can come to the Centre. It is run by the students, with some supporting staff. It is providing assistance with appeals processes, immediate shelter/safe accommodation and accessing housing-safe accommodation spaces. Senior students (mentor) first years,’ added Quin.
She argues that through responding to the practical needs, the Collective has been in a position to clearly see and articulate a way forward for future response by the University.
‘Instead of putting the onus of problem solving required in this period onto individual impoverished students, the institution can carry the load, using the resources it has for insuring access to those who have been accepted.
‘One aspect, for example, involves automatically temporarily registering everyone who arrives (who) has been accepted and/or part of the University in the past two years.
‘Finalisation of registration pending appeals then becomes the job of the University to resolve. Meal provision over registration, before NSFAS pays out is another. The Crisis Centre has now shown that all of this is possible,’ said Quin.
Another founding member Dr Clint Le Bruyns believes that the University should take responsibility instead of just pointing fingers and skirting the issue.
‘The University should take adequate responsibility as soon as a student shows up on our campuses. Every student matters. I would like to think that being a lecturer means caring, and that caring extends to beyond my office doors or lecture room,’ he said.
The Crisis Care Centre Collective is still feeding students. Support through donations for meals, food and cash are welcome.
There are also others ways to be a part of the initiative. If you want to be involved, you can contact Jane on Quinj@ukzn.ac.za or Clint on Lebruyns@ukzn.ac.za or look out for the bright Centre banner on campus that is currently operating from the basketball court pavilion.