UKZN - Silent Challenges Facing Higher Education
Since the early 1990s, the demographics of the student body attending higher education institutions has undergone a radical shift. Nowadays, the student profile of universities strongly reflect both regional and national demographic patterns with a strong emphasis being placed on opening access to historically underrepresented race, income and differently abled sections of the community.
These notable changes to enrolment patterns have introduced a swathe of new challenges to the higher education landscape. Most recently, the issue of student fees has surfaced across tertiary institutions nationally. Whilst this issue has grabbed media headlines and been the cause of student demonstrations,
it remains one of a new emerging set of challenges, which all stakeholders must respond to in a coherent and coordinated manner.
Aside from student fees, insufficient affordable student accommodation has seen unscrupulous property owners prey on desperate students, housing them in overcrowded accommodation. Horror stories have emerged where up to six students are crammed in accommodation meant for two. Other reports have surfaced where students are said to sleep in "shifts". None of these above-mentioned scenarios are desirable or conducive to quality teaching and learning.
Another more insipid challenge has come to the fore at UKZN and other tertiary institutions. Student hunger is growing across universities and if left unaddressed could compromise a sizable proportion of the student body. A study conducted by UKZN academic Dr Nick Munroe estimated that three in ten students are affected by student hunger. Approximately 2000 students are unsure where their next meal will come from. In addition to adjusting to university life and focusing on the academic performance, a large number of students face the "pain and shame" of being without food.
This situation persists despite the significant financial resources made available via the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and the efforts of the UKZN Student Services Division. In order to address the plight of students faced with this situation at UKZN, the University has implemented a voucher system which deserving students can access following a counselling intervention and needs assessment. The UKZN
Vice Chancellor, Dr Albert Van Jaarsveld, has thrown his full support behind a novel annual campaign, which seeks to mobilise resources and financial gifts ranging from R 100 and above to "the UKZN Food Security Campaign".
This campaign will support the efforts of Student Services to provide immediate and long-term relief to destitute and food insecure students. The UKZN therefore calls all its stakeholders, staff, parents, alumni, corporate and private individuals to - "Share the Festive Cheer" by contributing to this noble cause. As we approach the Festive Season we appeal to you to go to www.foundation.ukzn.ac.za and click on the DONATE NOW button.