South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr. Blade Nzimande has unveiled the University of Fort Hare’s (UFH) new greenfield US $30.5m student housing development in Alice, Eastern Cape.
The Alice Student Village Phase 2 was completed on 11 March 2021, and comprises 12 blocks and 1440 beds. With the completion of Phase 2 that was built in just over two years, the University of Fort Hare now has 6049 available beds in Alice, giving the university the ability to accommodate 70% of students on its Alice campus.
The Alice Student Village Development comprises of five cluster developments and two self-standing blocks and can accommodate 2050 students. It has 34 rooms that are accessibility-compliant for students with physical disabilities. The overall Student Village design and walkway integration, including the student centre, has been designed with wheelchair accessibility in mind. Each of the five clusters comprising three blocks each has its own courtyard and landscaped gardens.
The internal design of the blocks is apartment style, clustering a small number of rooms with a shared bathroom, giving students more privacy and better social integration. In addition, the 1500 m2 student centre has spaces for shops and a lecture or meeting space with platform seating. There is also an outdoor concourse for student assemblies.
Thirty-six (36) SMMEs were contracted during the construction for cleaning, wet works, building materials supplies, painting, roof-work, civils, plumbing, hot-rolled steel, supplying materials, CCTV, access control and medical services. In total, 500 BBB-EE employment opportunities were created; 326 youths received employment opportunities; 37 women were employed during the construction period; and 115 training opportunities were provided.
Funding the project
For the Alice Student Village Phase 2 development, the Department of Higher Education and Training contributed a grant of US 8.9m, the Development Bank of Southern Africa provided US $20.2m loan funding and the University contributed US $1.4m. The Infrastructure Investment Programme of South Africa (IIPSA), funded by the European Union, awarded a Direct Capital Grant of US $2m to the University of Fort Hare, which the University could draw on to pay the interest portion on the DBSA loan while construction was in process.
According to Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, Vice-Chancellor University of Fort Hare, the new student village addresses critical student accommodation shortages in Alice. “In 2 years, we built and completed the largest student residence development project in South Africa. An improved and dignified campus life experience is no longer a dream, but a reality for the students of the University of Fort Hare,” he said.
“The completion of this student housing development is an important milestone for the university’s ‘Decade of Renewal’ master plan, which is setting the university on an ambitious trajectory of reinvention in the 21st century,” he added.
Mr Patrick Dlamini, CEO DBSA said that the DBSA in partnership with the EU has played a meaningful role in assisting the South African government and the region to deliver and prepare essential infrastructure to the communities in South Africa and the region by supporting infrastructure development to serve the societies and therefore contribute to economic growth, create local jobs and strong vibrant communities.
“The DBSA is committed to supporting Government in eradicating the massive backlog in student housing accommodation. The DBSA’s investment in Alice campus is R278 million. Together with National Treasury and the IIPSA Infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa (IIPSA) and DHET the DBSA has successfully created a funding model for critical infrastructure in SA,” he said.
Her Excellency Riina Kionka, European Union Ambassador to South Africa said that by supporting construction of a 1,440 bed student housing project in partnership with the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Department of Higher Education and Training, EU funds have helped address the student accommodation shortfall at the University of Fort Hare’s Alice Campus in the Eastern Cape. “This is an important step in addressing the acute student accommodation backlog,” she added.