Xola Dungelo featured above, and Yamkelani Ncume in the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) vegetable garden they helped establish.
Time spent sleeping in a cold TV lounge – to give those looking for a spot at university a comfortable bed on which to sleep – motivated a student to find a way of ending the scourge of hunger at Nelson Mandela University. The sight of destitute university placement seekers troubled Xola Dungelo, 24, of King William’s Town so much he knew he had to act. Dungelo, a student representative council (SRC) member last year, put on his thinking cap.
“As we, the SRC, were assisting students with late applications, I noticed that it was not only university access that the students needed.
“Research has shown that the hunger of students is the biggest contributor to student drop-outs, so I had to do something,” Dungelo said.
“Food Banks” provide healthy meals to students fighting hunger
Later in 2017, he struck gold when he formed part of a cohort benchmarking the SRC constitution, something that allowed him to visit other institutions of higher learning for research purposes.
During a visit to the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, he was introduced to the concept of a “food bank” where the university, together with other sponsors, was providing healthy meals to students daily. Dungelo and Yamkelani Ncume, 22, now co-ordinate a food bank at NMU which supplies the university clinic with fresh vegetables for food parcels that are administered to deserving students.
“When we came back from Wits, we conceptualised the document, which was then subsequently approved by the dean of students, Luthando Jack,” Dungelo said.
“We then approached many organisations and businesses to act as sponsors. Tiger Brands then agreed to provide funding for establishing gardens on the north campus which are now maintained by student volunteers.
“Rehab Technologies donated a prefab and container for the storing and administering of the 350 sandwiches and fruits supplied to students daily,” he said.
Replicating an Aquaponics Farm
The pair is also in the final stages of drafting a plan to replicate an aquaponics farm that was launched at the Missionvale campus by INMED, with support from the Mondelez International Foundation, last year.
Ncume, who is an avid businessman, said that part of their plan was to provide agriculture students with a place to do their practical research while using environmentally friendly methods.
“We are hoping to get support from the university and other people so that we can even supply the university cafeteria with healthy vegetables and fish for our students.”
Subsistence farming and aquaponics are two very real and necessary food sources especially in a place like the Eastern Cape.