By Azwihangwisi Mufamadi
When the Extension of University Education Act of 1959 was passed by the apartheid government in South Africa, higher education institutions were divided along race, ethnic groups and the language used when classes were taught. Due to this act, Rhodes University was open to students who, according to the apartheid government, were classified as white.
Since the new democratic government came to power in 1994, there has been a huge transformation
in South Africa’s higher education. Institutions which were open for specific ethnic groups and races are
now open to anyone. Rhodes is now open to students, who are not only of different races and ethnic groups but also students from other countries around the globe.
Although Rhodes has survived the government drive to merge universities, it is now faced with another challenge. This is the challenge of catering for a growing number of students with the same amount of resources. This year has seen a growth in the number of students registered at undergraduate level.
The growing number of students creates an additional layer of problems for Rhodes, which has a small number of residences where students can be accommodated. The new lecture venues and residences
that are being constructed can only accommodate a few students. Some buildings, which were previously used as flats for married students and staff, have now been transformed into residences.
The fact that many students have to share a lecture venue is used by some to justify why they do not voice their opinions in lectures. Not that they participate in tutorials where there are only a few students per group.
Besides Rhodes University, Grahamstown is a small town with entertainment facilities that
were designed to accommodate a small number of students. Although it means more business for the nightclub owners and managers when the clubs are packed, this feeling is not greeted with the same delight by the people who go to the nightclubs.I don’t think standing in a queue to get into Friar Tuck’s at midnight, let alone trying to find your way to the counter through sweaty bodies on the dance floor, is anyone’s idea of having fun.
The entertainment is not the only social aspect that is affected by the growth of a number of students.
An increased number of students also mean an increase in the water demand in Grahamstown. In cases
where there is a shortage, people spend most of their time running around, looking for water. Although
Rhodes University is in the process of transformation, one would ask if Grahamstown is able to sustain these changes.
If Grahamstown is unable to supply water to people and to provide adequate space for entertainment because of a slight increase of students living in Grahamstown, I can only wonder what will happen when Rhodes is fully transformed.