Covid-19 has had a severe impact on the construction industry in South Africa, including material shortages, loss of income and the delay of key infrastructure projects, such as student housing. With the sector resuming operations under lockdown Level 3, the country can begin working towards economic recovery.
“This is the largest student accommodation development ever undertaken by a university in South Africa. Its completion is critical to easing the housing crisis at the University of Fort Hare and giving students access to resources necessary for academic success,” says Sean Kenealy, Director at STAG African, the student accommodation group responsible for developing the project.
Lack of accommodation is one of the biggest challenges faced at UFH. Currently, residences at the university’s Alice campus are barely able to accommodate 50% of the student population. With this project, the university aims to house 65% of students on campus, as well as provide a new student centre and a dedicated postgraduate accommodation block.
Kenealy believes that the reopening of the construction sector will also play a major role in cushioning the impact of lockdown-related unemployment; “The construction and property development industries are major economic contributors – they have the potential to employ large numbers of workers very quickly. Given the current state of our economy, this is something that government and business should prioritise moving forward.”
“Following weeks of preparation and the implementation of strict health and safety measures in accordance with Level 3 regulations, the UFH construction site has been declared Covid-19 protocol compliant. Physical distancing, the use of face masks, and continued education are among the measures being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, and ensure the safety of construction workers,” says Nangamso Cetywayo, UFH Project Manager at STAG African.Phase one of the project, completed in 2014, saw 610 beds made available to the university. A further 854 beds have been completed in phase two, which is Funded by the Department of Higher Education and Training, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the European Union and valued at over R400-million. Completion of the project in December 2020 will bring the total number of beds handed over to 2 047, giving UFH the highest ratio of students to beds in the country.