Feedback from university students has shown that many students at South Africa’s institutions of higher learning are often hungry and when they do eat have unhealthy eating habits.
At the ongoing 2018 Siyaphumelela Conference in Johannesburg, a number of university students expressed deep concern over the high rate of food insecurity at institutions of higher learning. Testimonials and presentations from some students revealed that large segments of the student population were struggling because they have little to no food to eat, or eat unhealthily.
Students from the University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, Nelson Mandela University, the University of the Free State and DUT, were among those who reported going hungry, and this was especially true for those from poor backgrounds and low quintile schools, and those who were often first generation students in their families.
And a study conducted through the Food Intervention Programme at Durban University of Technology by food and nutrition final-year student, Sboniso Ngcobo, found that students in his class were either overweight or underweight.
Ngcobo said that while some students were of normal weight, his research further found that their health and behavioural profile were influenced by the availability of food in terms of quality, prices and availability of money to purchase it.
“This clearly demonstrated to me that students have unhealthy eating habits. When I further enquired the reasons for this, most students said they eat what is readily and cheaply available such as amagwinya (vetkoeks) while some said they had no money to buy food at all so went hungry most of the time,” Ngcobo said.
Naledi Pandor, minister of higher education and training, highlighted the adverse effect student funding has on South African students, saying that government has chosen to introduce a full-cost bursary scheme for students whose family income is under R350 000 a year.
“Students who are inadequately funded experience great challenges with regards to food security, suitable accommodation, and the ability to obtain textbooks and other resources. These tend to be poor black working class students which means we need to develop models of funding and support that address their needs,” Pandor said.
Saide, an educational NGO, said while there were no statistics on exactly how many students were food insecure, the problem was especially prevalent among those at universities.
Saide said it would further investigate the call for a food security/sovereignty forum made at the conference as more universities such as Wits and DUT were now harvesting fruits and vegetables on campuses as a food security measure.
– African News Agency (ANA)