Home News ‘Hungry’ SPU students protest over new catering model

‘Hungry’ SPU students protest over new catering model

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Sol Plaatje University students staged a protest at the Luka Jantjie campus and set tyres alight on the main grounds in Scanlan Street on Monday due to unhappiness over the changes that were made to the catering model.

Students staged a protest over the new catering model on Monday. Picture: Sandi Kwon Hoo

SOL PLAATJE University (SPU) students staged a protest at the Luka Jantjie campus and set tyres alight on the main grounds in Scanlan Street on Monday due to unhappiness over the changes that were made to the catering model.

Members of the public had trouble accessing roads surrounding the Hoffe Park and House Tawana campuses.

Students stated that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had only allocated an allowance of R1,600 for toiletries and food per month.

“Up until last month, we used to be given three meals per day plus a monthly allowance of R1,300. That means we only have R300 extra per month for food now. They should provide us with a minimum of two free meals per day. We are hungry and cannot concentrate on our studies. There are no stoves at the residence and the allowance is not sufficient to cover our meal expenses for the month,” they said.

The students added that meals at the university canteen ranged from R35 for breakfast, R45 for lunch and R55 for supper.

“The student representative council (SRC) met with management three weeks ago and nothing has been resolved. Many students are from outside the Province including Limpopo and the North West. It’s not as if we can quickly go home for a meal. Our poverty-stricken parents have to worry about scrounging around for money to send us for meals that they did not budget for.”

The students indicated that they have to walk to town to buy food.

“There is only a microwave and fridge in the dorms. We don’t know Kimberley. We are tired and hungry.”

The SRC is advocating for three meals per day to be provided to both funded and unfunded students.

“Instead of looking after the food security of students, the university is worried about making profits. The catering model is not inclusive for all students because it solely benefits students that are beneficiaries of NSFAS. Bursary students and those who are self-funded or sponsored by private funding are not catered for.

“During the first week of implementation, the catering model left the majority of students having to attend classes on an empty stomach.”

The SRC stated that the current funding model would not sustain NSFAS students for longer than 15 days.

The acting director of institutional advancement at SPU, Kashini Maistry, indicated that the fully outsourced catering model came into effect on April 15.

“The protest, which began peacefully, became violent and the SAPS had to intervene,” said Maistry.

She advised that the academic programme would continue online until further notice.

“Support staff who can work from home, in consultation with their line manager, should do so.”

She explained that the new catering model was approved following two years of extensive planning and consultations with the SRC and council of SPU.

“This decision was taken in line with the university’s approach to financial sustainability, since the cost of providing catering to students was more than the university was allowed to charge students for the service.”

Maistry stated that the catering model entailed converting the university’s dining halls into retail outlets that were operated by outsourced service providers so that students had access to a greater variety of catering options.

“The current SRC petitioned the university council on April 26 to reconsider the transition to a fully outsourced catering model. They proposed that the university subsidises two meals for residence students who are receiving a monthly allowance, which would allow them to have three meals a day at the cafeteria. They also requested that the university fully assists unfunded residence students with three meals a day at the cafeteria. Council deliberated on the proposal and then requested that the university management provide a breakdown of the costs. The Finance Committee of Council (FINCO) would then analyse the information and make a recommendation to council for a final decision.”

She believed that there was “no logical basis” for the protest action.

“The SRC, who are leading the current protest, have been part of the council discussions and are aware of the processes proposed at the special council meeting held on April 26. There was no logical basis for the protest action today in which protesting students handed over a memorandum of demands, the content of which is the same as their proposal to council.”

Maistry indicated that FINCO would meet on Monday evening to discuss its recommendations to council.

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