UFH ANNOUNCES MULTI-MILLION RAND REFURBISHMENT PROJECT OF 85 LECTURE HALLS

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Alice, 2 December 2021 -- The University of Fort Hare (UFH) today announced that a new multi-million-rand infrastructure maintenance and refurbishment project is currently underway which will provide a students and academic staff with improved teaching and learning facilities for the 2022 academic year through a DHET Infrastructure and Efficiency Grant (IEG).

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The work packages include refurbishment of the floors, walls and ceilings and replacement of seating for more than 85 lecture venues in several buildings, including UFH’s East London main building and several lecture halls including Livingstone, Steward Hall, the Psychology and Humanities block, Henderson, and the Law, Agricultural, Botany and Gasson buildings, amongst others.

Building contractors commenced work in 2021 Q4 and it is anticipated that the project will be completed by 2022 Q1.

The maintenance and refurbishment project forms part of the spatial component of UFH’s “Decade of Renewal” institutional master plan, which endeavours to recreate, renew and reimagine physical infrastructure on the Alice, East London and Bhisho campuses to provide students with a more dignified learning environment and greater student campus life experience,” announced Dr. Oscar van Heerden, DVC: Institutional Support at the University of UFH.

“We have been severely affected by apartheid spatial morphology and the marginalisation of the University through a policy of separate development.  Since the 1990s, UFH’s infrastructure began spiralling into a state of disrepair with the systemic collapse of the institution’s technical services department, the departure of a dedicated maintenance function, and administrations that did not prioritise infrastructure strategy.

“Today, conditions of the lecture venues and laboratories are in a very poor state - some of them have not been refurbished for more than two decades. Over the years, financial resourcing of UFH’s maintenance department was neither an institutional objective nor a strategic priority,” said Dr. van Heerden. 

Dr. van Heerden said his office will continue to create institutional support for enabling and conducive environment with brick and mortar, technology, and other architectural and built-environment innovations to bring the University spatial setting in line with other universities of South Africa.

“The refurbishment programme of classrooms is just one part of our wider greenfield and brownfield infrastructure strategic plan that will see UFH set out to create an entirely new spatial identity, conducive to world-class support teaching, learning and research,” he said.

Commenting on the refurbishment project, UFH Vice-Chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu said:

“I am very confident what we are doing in terms new infrastructure, and the refurbishment and repair of existing infrastructure, is going to be a game changer for UFH.  This will help us shake off the label of being a historically disadvantaged institution.  However, to do that we need to fix existing infrastructure and make it a strategic and ongoing priority, which the management executive community (MEC) and Council has agreed to.  

This is how we are going to change the consciousness and mindset about UFH and create a new experience for our students and staff,” he said.

The Vice-Chancellor said the UFH community remains grateful for the ongoing support from the Department of Higher Education and Training in UFH’s infrastructure programmes.

“We want to maintain the pace following the completion of our Student Village on Alice that was unveiled earlier this year and is now providing safe and secure accommodation to 70% of our students.  The next step of our infrastructure programme must address student accommodation in East London.  We have a vision of a new greenfield mega student housing complex in the city to create safe environments for our students and will be working closely with DHET to realise this dream for Fort Harians,” said the Vice-Chancellor.

Dr. van Heerden said that SMME empowerment for the multi-million Rand refurbishment project of 85 lecture halls was and continues to remain a priority for UFH, and that B-BBEE and SMME participation goals were diligently applied in the design phase of the programme.

“The classroom refurbishment project was broken into smaller packages to allow smaller and emerging contractors with a CIDB grading of level three an opportunity to benefit from this programme and contractors employed on this project were taken from the UFH supply chain database,” he said.