CONSTRUCTION of the biggest student residence in South African history, Student Village on the Alice campus of the University of Fort Hare is nearing completion. To mark this significant milestone, the university, together with the project developers, hosted a roof wetting ceremony on 5 November.
The ceremony was held to acknowledge work done at the newly built student centre which is part of the bigger project worth R400m. This student housing development is a lead project in the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP), which aims to significantly improve the number of beds and quality of student housing on both rural and urban campuses country-wide.
The project is being developed by student accommodation group, STAG African. Once completed, it will boast 2047 student beds, an addition to the 4800 beds that the university currently provides to students. The newly-built student centre will house a number of different outlets including a cinema.
Despite delays caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, the project is well on track and expected to be completed by the end of this year and fully functional by the beginning of next year (2021).
Gracing this momentous event was Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, MEC members, contributing SMMEs from the local community and members of the business community in Alice. Also in attendance was the Senior Princess Nomarharhabe Sandile, daughter to the recently departed Queen of Amarharhabe, Noloyiso Sandile.
Speaking during the ceremony. Prof Buhlungu said the project is the biggest development to be undertaken in Alice to date. “It has created jobs for locals and created economic participation to sub-contractors in the region. Most importantly, it has created spaces of dignity.”
“The 2020 to 2030 decade has been dubbed a decade of renewal for the university entirely and students should feel they are part of it. This student residence is a vote of confidence in the main (Alice) campus. We are putting our roots down in Alice, we anchor it,” said the VC.
Prince Zolile Burns Ncamashe who spoke on behalf of the developers took the opportunity to praise the university and the project it has undertaken. “In this place lies great people who have departed. But when they look at the University today, it is with great sense of happiness that their vision has come to fruition”.
He urged the VC to ensure that during his tenure, Alice town is developed into a university town.
“We would like to see Alice being developed into a university town akin to Stellenbosch and Grahamstown (Makhanda). It should be a university town that will draw the distinction and keep the posture of world-class structures. We are proud of you (VC) for bringing back Fort Hare to Alice, where it belongs,” he concluded.