Restoration of UFH building torched during violent student unrest six years ago is underway

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The Staff Centre on the University of Fort Hare’s Alice campus which was torched during a violent student protest in 2017 is currently being restored.

Contractors have been hard at work since January and the project is said to be on target for completion.

The refurbishment of the centre is among the infrastructure projects the Vice-Chancellor Prof Sakhela Buhlungu announced for this year during his University official opening address last month.

“Staff will be pleased to know that the project has commenced, and it is on target to be completed before the end of this year,” said the VC who applauded the excellent workmanship of the renovations done on the Economics Building which caught fire two years ago.

“The renovations on the Economics Building were done extremely well and in record time. It serves as an example that it can be done.”

The VC also took the opportunity to remind staff and students that: “Infrastructure does not destroy itself and the University does not destroy itself. The University does not allow itself to go down, it is people who allow it. Let us recognize that fact.”

The news about the Staff Centre being refurbished was met with much delight by staff members.

Senior Administrator in the Vice-Chancellor Office, Khanyi Gola recalls the moments after the centre was torched. “I was shocked, I didn’t understand why the protest had to be so destructive. The Staff Centre was where we unwinded, met new colleagues and formed new friendships. I was devasted when I woke up to the news that it had been torched.”

When asked how she felt now that it is being renovated the tone of Gola’s voice instantly switched from sad to joyous. “I am extremely happy that we are going to have our place back,” she said.

Equally excited is Mr Lundi Wana, Lecturer at the Department of Sociology located less than 100 metres from the Staff Centre. Wana described the building as the true “centre of the university”

“It was not just the centre of the University by virtue of its location, but it was the place that brought us together and held many of us together. It was much more than a place to have our lunch. The Staff Centre was a space where intellectual debates were had by people from different disciplines with diverse views on various social, academic, and political topics.”

“New friendships were formed, newcomers were inducted and many amicable solutions were shared to different challenges.”

Mr Wena who has been at UFH for over two decades says one of his fondest memories at the Staff Centre is the spontaneous or sometimes planned live performances by the UFH choir.  "The choir would render us one or two items and we would loosen up a bit and by the time you go back to class, you feel revitalized."