The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) is set to pump over R300 million into Walter Sisulu University (WSU) over the next three years in a bid to help the University tackle its challenges and also improve its offerings.
WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said,the university, in its approved bid, has set aside an estimated R210 million exclusively for the construction of a brand new teaching facility, as well as refurbishments and upgrades to various teaching and learning spaces.
“No work has yet commenced for the specified projects because the process to be followed dictates that the approved projects require detailed project plans to be submitted to DHET for approval before the money is deposited,” Tukwayo said.
In a letter addressed to the WSU Vice Chancellor Prof Rob Midgley, the DHET minister Naledi Pandor pledged to support the University in addressing some of the many challenges the university has been confronted with in the past regarding the planning and implementation of infrastructure programmes.
Following an indication by the institution that it would benefit from support for infrastructure development from DHET’s oversight and project management team, the DHET minister duly obliged and allocated an initial amount of R301 950 000 over the 2018/19 to 2020/21 period to support the university’s infrastructure and development plan.
“Further engagement will be required with the department and its Development Support Team on the finalisation of the infrastructure delivery management plan for these approved projects, as well as a process for capacity development requirements at the institution level to assist the University to develop the capability to manage its infrastructure delivery effectively and efficiently,” said Pandor in the letter.
“Out of the R210 million, an estimated R80 million is set to be spent on the construction of brand new lecture venues for Butterworth campus’s education faculty, whilst an estimated total of R132 million will see refurbishments being made to buildings belonging to the faculties of commerce, education and humanities at the Mthatha campus,” said Tukwayo.
She said upgrades will also be carried out to the natural science faculty’s laboratories in Mthatha, whilst refurbishments to various teaching spaces in Buffalo City Campus and Butterworth, as well as water and sewerage reticulation work in both Mthatha and Butterworth campuses, will be effected.
A further estimated R123 million is set to be pumped into projects related to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), student housing, environmental, social sustainability schemes, as well as projects related to national imperatives. This will bring the grand total of the three-year intervention to R335 775 000.
“This multi-million-rand intervention will improve our current situation greatly. However, for now it falls far short of what the institution needs to bring it to a satisfactory level,” said Tukwayo.
Tukwayo flagged the systematic problem of student debt as the chief stumbling block in the university’s efforts to reach its desired ambitions of providing the best quality education for its students.
She said a number of the challenges which have arisen as a result of the astronomical debt owed by students to the University over the years would be alleviated if WSU could manage to recoup the money.
“From sports and recreation facilities to upkeep of existing facilities to construction of new offices and residences and the maintenance of the old, these could have been achieved. In this regard, the University would need a total of about R3 billion to significantly advance the university to reach its goals,” said Tukwayo.
She said the institution had recently enlisted the aid of a debt collection company to help the university recover some the outstanding student debt.