Students say there is a need for additional psychologists to be stationed at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape.
They say this will assist them as they struggle to cope with the recent tragedies that have hit the institution. One of the latest was the death of Yonela Boli, who was allegedly stabbed by his girlfriend at lona residence on the Alice campus on February 8.
The Alice Magistrate’s Court granted Boli’s alleged murderer Yolanda Nogemane bail of R1 000, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said.
She is expected to appear in court again on May 25, as the State conducts further investigations.
Another student, Olwethu Tshefu, 30, who was reportedly a close friend of Boli’s, was also stabbed last Saturday on the day Boli was buried.
During the 2019 academic year, the institution recorded 13 student deaths.
According to the university’s director of institutional advancement Tandi Mapukata, the deaths occurred both on and off campus, ranging from suicides to accidents.
Three students died at home from illness and a further three were killed in car accidents off campus. There were four alleged suicides – two on campus, one off campus and one at an off-campus residence. Another student died after drowning in the institution’s swimming pool. Two others died from stabbings on campus and another from burn wounds.
Students believe that not enough support was offered to them after these incidents.
A BCom Economics student, who wants to remain anonymous, told News24 that students were initially sent to Victoria Hospital for counselling but often didn’t get assistance because of long queues.
She added that a psychologist was later stationed on campus, but this came too late.
The post-graduate student said she is currently at home because of financial exclusion. She added she was struggling mentally because of everything that had happened at the institution.
“With the 10th student that passed away last year, after being [allegedly] murdered and thrown inside the university swimming pool, it hit me hard.
“It meant that these things would continue happening, with the university distancing itself from everything…” she said.
She added that students feel like they are on their own and get no support from management. She said management tended to distance themselves from some cases, adding that they have no control over students’ social affairs off campus.
In response, Mapukata said that the university has a healthcare centre for “sick students” and it works closely with surrounding hospitals and clinics.
“The institution has partnered with the psychology department and the social works department to offer psychological support to students and staff in distress. The institution has social workers and psychologists who work on a rotational basis at both the East London and Alice campuses,” Mapukata explained.
She said that all students who were found to have committed serious crimes on campus were suspended immediately and charged.
SRC president James Xaba Nqabeni said they have continuously tried to put pressure on management over their concerns that only one psychologist serves thousands of students. He added that they have ensured there were programmes in place to help with mental awareness.
“You may understand that our university is located in a rural area where there are no activities to at least assist students. We have tried to make sure that there are programmes to assist them to speak about their problems. But we are still facing a problem with regards to a psychologist,” he said.
He added all the SRC could do after the tragedies was to offer support to the bereaved families.
Nqabeni said there is a rise in violence among students at the institution, but put this down to several issues.
“During this time, we are faced with financial exclusion and students are depressed. As a result, the youth are turning to alcohol and drugs. Violence is on the rise because they are always on drugs and are drunk, and there are a number of contributing factors to that,” he said.