By Naledi Mashishi

Wits SRC and management collaborate to assist ‘missing middle’ students with registration fees, accommodation and historical debt.

The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Wits University management have joined hands to launch the new Hardship Fund to help ‘missing middle’ returning students. Applications for the fund closed on Thursday, January 24.

The fund is designed to help students whose annual household income falls under the R600 000 threshold and whose academic average is at least 50%. It was approved by Senate in November 2018 and formally included in the 2019 budget. The university has contributed R10 million to the fund and an additional R1 million was donated by a private donor.

SRC fundraising officer Solomzi Moleketi says that the fund was created to address systemic barriers to education that students encountered. The fund helps returning students pay their registration fees, secure accommodation, and covers up to 50% of a student’s historical debt. However, in cases where the debt exceeds R80 000, the fund will only cover up to R40 000
in order to allow as many students as possible to be assisted by the fund.

“So far we’ve helped 77 students which has cost just under R3 million,” Moleketi told Wits Vuvuzela. “We are also working out a partnership with South Point to assist with accommodation.”

The Hardship Fund is one of a number of funds that have been launched by SRCs over the years to assist students, including the Wits Humanitarian Fund which was started in 2009 and the Emergency Fund which was launched in 2018. Moleketi argues that the over the years there has been a consistent growth in funding, and the university using its funds to assist students has been an ongoing conversation stretching back to 2011. 

“We are hoping there will be more sustainability with this fund because of its inclusion in the budget. We hope that it will continue next year,” he said.

However, according to Wits chief financial officer Prakash Desai, the R10 million provided by the university was approved by Senate as a once-off item.

“During 2018, savings from other budget line items were redirected towards student hardship. Only a limited number of students are supported on the review of a substantive case made for hardship and on academic merit,” Desai said.

Beneficiaries of the fund are decided by a discretionary committee made up of the SRC, the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, the Dean of Students, the Registrar, and the Finance Executive. According to Moleketi, there are an additional 400 cases to be reviewed. 

FEATURED PHOTO: The Wits SRC and management are assisting ‘missing middle’ students with a new Hardship Fund.

Photo: File