TWO hundred million rand of national funding for graduate students in debt has apparently gone unused by Witsies.
The fund was set aside by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande in his budget speech in May. The fund was created for students who have either been blacklisted or are in debt and cannot graduate because of their unpaid fees.
The fund will clear their debt so that they can find employment. Since the announcement, the Wits SRC says they are having difficulty reaching the students, and that no students have come forward to claim from the fund.
Wits SRC treasurer, Tshepo Ndlovu, says the reason behind this apparent lack of action on the part of the affected students is miscommunication from the department of higher education.
“The department itself did not inform institutions properly, so that they might create avenues where students could know about the fund.
“There were no posters, there were no adverts. At least in newspapers there should be something that alerted those graduates that [they should] go to the relevant offices or institutions so that they can source the funding.”
Deputy Minister of Education, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, says the department expected university institutions to play their role too.
“They have to assist [and] promote that information. We thought that they would write to people who are affected,” he said.
The minister also encouraged the use of social networks in an attempt to spread awareness of the unclaimed funds. “The student leadership has to use their social networks to encourage their members to come forward and take advantage of this”.
Ndlovu says that they have begun to make efforts for those still in the university’s system.”We have lobbied the Alumni Relations office that we should try and track down the people who are still on the system and with outstanding fees.”
David Molehlane, 3rd year BA, says it was the first time he had heard of the fund. “I don’t even know who to call, the SRC, do I call the fees office? You see that’s the thing, they don’t even put the information out. That’s their problem.”