Thousands of University of Pretoria (UP) students – those who are part of the missing middle – face a daily struggle to get food and necessities such as toothpaste.
That is beside the struggle at the start of the year, where they’re often homeless for the first few days trying to find a place to sleep.
The Citizen spoke to a 19-year-old first-year BA Law student who said: “Besides the hunger for education, the hunger for food can become so overwhelming that you must decide what time of the day you will have the only meal you can afford, in the morning before attending class, or at night when you will have to sit up for long hours studying.
“And then you don’t even know where your next meal is going to come from.”
“That is despite toiletries to take care of your personal hygiene. Oh my gosh Colgate, you can’t imagine how we struggle for Colgate,” the student added.
All the students The Citizen spoke to wanted to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.
Most of these students cannot even tell their parents of their dire daily situation because parents already struggled to get them into university.
UP and Tuks FM have now formed a supportive relationship with Menlyn Park Shopping Centre who have since donated foodstuff, toiletries, blankets and personal items to the value of R30 000 to the 10 000 “missing middle” students. The centre’s general manager Olive Ndebele said: “The opportunity for the students to lift their families out of poverty is overshadowed by the constant distraction of homelessness, hunger and the need for improved personal care keeps them from reaching their full academic potential.”
Ndebele said they are not just a shopping centre, but they are also about lifestyle and “that also means making positive contributions to the community in which we serve”.
“Students and education is something very close to our hearts because education helps grow the economy,” she said. “This is just one of many initiatives that we will be partnering in.”
Tuks FM sales representative Jolene Harber thanked Ndebele for her centre’s contribution and said students are the future businesspeople and entrepreneurs.
Harber said the university also has various other projects throughout the year where it encourages members of the community to either donate food or money.
“Other students might need money for textbooks and other resources,” she said.
Wishing the students luck with their examinations, Ndebele said: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”