#Access Campaign: the latest update

The Wits SRC’s #Access campaign has so far fallen short of its intended R10 million target, raising R4.8 million over the last eight months.

The campaign, was launched to assist students who fall into the “missing middle”, a term used to describe students who do not qualify for NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme), funding but still cannot afford university fees.

SRC secretary general Fasiha Hassan believes the campaign has faltered due to political uncertainty in universities which has discouraged corporate donors.
“It is very heart-breaking because here we are trying to seek sustainable solutions to the issues in higher education only to have the door shut in our faces by the private sector,”.

Until now the money donated has gone towards assisting students with their accommodation and tuition. A portion of the fund has also been allocated to clearing the existing debt of some students. Hassan said that students belonging to the missing middle were prioritised first and then other students were included.

“Those who were rejected from NSFAS because they fell above the R120 000 cap were then included, we also had various other elements such as household income,” said Hassan.

She added that the SRC, through its Humanitarian Fund board, also looked at students’ academic performance to fund students who potentially could secure bursaries, as well as third-year and final-year students, “because they are going to finish their degree, in theory, and be able to pay back and donate”. Fields that were generally under-funded were also prioritised.

The SRC will be opening applications for 2016 in the next three months.

Related articles

Wits Vuvuzela: #AccessCampaign Accommodation crisis temporarily resolved, May 17, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela: #ACCESS Campaign: Where are we now?, March 4, 2016

Who is SAUS and what you need to know about them

With all the excitement around #FeesMustFallReloaded, there’s one name that seems to be at the center of it all: The South African Union of Students (SAUS), but who are they?

SAUS is a student union that is elected by SRC’s from universities across the country and therefore represent all Student Representative Councils in the country.

They have been speaking for students at the Fees Commision’s public hearings which began last week and on Sunday SAUS released a statement calling for mass meetings across universities on the issue of fee increments.

According to the SAUS Secretary General Sthembiso Ka-Ndlovu the union was established at Stellenbosch University in 2006, it’s main purpose was so that students had a single representative body in the higher education sector.

They union is said to be a national and non-partisan umbrella body of student representation in the country.

However people on social media have been questioning the legitimacy of SAUS and the fact that it is mostly comprised of Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) members, an organisation made up of mostly ANC-affiliated youth organisations.

Ka-Ndlovu says there is a heavy PYA presence in SAUS because SRC’s elect the members and “of the 25 Universities about 19 of them are SASCO-led.”

Who is in the executive?

President: Avela Mjajubala – Durban University of Technology

Deputy President: Moza Motlalepula – North West University

Secretary General: Sthembiso Ka-Nkosi – Tshwane University of Technology

Deputy Secretary General: Fasiha Hassan – Wits University

Treasurer: Misheck Mugabe – Fort Hare University.

People who can be nominated to represent students in SAUS have to have been part of the SRC in the last two years prior to being elected.

The union currently has 15 members.

Related stories:

Wits Vuvuzela: SAUS to begin mobilising from Monday as fee increase looms, August 14, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela: Treasury says no money to fund zero percent fee increase, August 14, 2016

Student Union wants direct link to the president

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has said they will be looking to discuss issues of free education directly with the Presidency than through the Commission of Inquiry into Free Higher Education.

This comes after the first day of the Commission’s public hearings in Pretoria.

SAUS deputy secretary general Fasiha Hassan said they wanted the direct line because they were disappointed with the commission’s lack of political power to discuss issues of free higher education.

“SAUS is now looking towards creating a direct line with the president of the republic,  particularly because this is a presidential commission and when we raise issues, stuff around decomodification, stuff around how to realise free education, we are often told that we now have to take it back to the president,” said Hassan.

She added that “If we are not going to be talking to a commission without political will then we have to take it straight to the top.”

Student activist Tasneem Essop also questioned the Commission’s purpose on Twitter.

“I don’t understand, surely #FeesCommission should be finding a feasible model for free education & not checking if free education is feasible,” she said.

The commission of inquiry was established in January by President Jacob Zuma following #FeesMustFall protests where students demanded free higher education and training. The commission was expected to submit their findings in eight months, however two weeks ago the Presidency said they would extend the due date to next year June 30.

The commission is expected to submit a preliminary report on or before November 15. The public hearings are set to continue today in Pretoria and will end in September in Kimberly.

Related Stories

Wits Vuvuzela: Students reaffirm call for free education, August 10, 2016

Wits Vuvuzela: Wits University invites calls to influence fees , April 30,2016

Postponed debt looms for waivered students

The deadline for students who signed the waiver form is fast approaching, students have until March 31 to sort out their financial arrangements with the university .

TIME IS MONEY: Students have less than a month to get their finances sorted. Photo: Michelle Gumede

TIME IS MONEY: Students have less than a month to get their finances sorted. Photo: Michelle Gumede

 The nearly 9 000 students who signed a contract to waive their registration fee at the beginning of the year have less than a month to pay their debt of R 9340.

Students who had provisional offers for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for 2016, those with external bursaries and those with a Wits University scholarship did not have to make upfront payments for registration at the beginning of this year.

Instead, students who didn’t have adequate funding at the beginning of the year signed an Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) form which stated that they are entering into an arrangement for the payment of the upfront fee as well any interest from the date of the signature.

Some of the original signatories of the acknowledgement of debt have since been helped and funded by the SRC’s #Access Campaign and some have since appealed and received approval for NSFAS.

But many students have not been so lucky.

“I’m thinking of deregistering because there is nothing I can do,” says Onkarabile Mokoto, a returning third-year student who signed the contract to waive his registration at the beginning of this year.

Mokoto was previously studying at Wits towards a Bachelor of Education degree from 2008. The young man from Kagiso, in Mogale City on the west of Johannesburg, was previously able to afford his tuition through the NSFAS and the Gauteng Department of Education bursary. He dropped out of university in 2010 due to “personal reasons.”

But Mokoto did not inform his faculty that he would not be continuing with the rest of the academic calendar for 2010 and his marks for that year resulted in academic exclusion.

“Because of lack of knowledge I didn’t know I was supposed to do that [deregister].”

Due to his previous record of exclusion NSFAS rejected his application for funding for 2016 even though he does qualify for NSFAS. With the help of the SRC, Mokoto went through the appeals process but his appeal was also rejected in mid-February. He has since been left with no option but to deregister. Mokoto says although the SRC were initially helping him to secure funding, in the end there was not much that SRC did for his cause.

“They told me to focus on my studies and try to look for other funds.” Mokoto says.

According to a statement put out by the university in January, students who cannot pay registration in full by March 31 should notify the university by completing and concluding an AOD before the end of March.

Provided a student has done that, and fulfils their obligations as set out in the AOD, they will not be charged additional interest on any amounts outstanding in respect of tuition fees.

According to the fees office, all students who have not settled their accounts by March 31 are legible to pay a 1.3% interest on their balance, whether they have signed the AOD or not.

But for students like Mokoto who haven’t been able to secure funds the situation looks dire. He says he plans to deregister because he cannot pay the registration, and cannot afford his textbooks. Mokoto told Wits Vuvuzela that even as he signed the waiver he had no idea of where to get the money to pay his fees.

Vice chancellor Adam Habib told Wits Vuvuzela that he was concerned that if fees are not paid, the university will not be able to keep the lights on. “I wish I didn’t have to charge fees,” says Habib.

Habib said the university was underfunded by the state, with only R1.4-billion in funding coming from the government while it costs R3.4-billion to operate the university.

Habib said that those students who signed an acknowledgement of debt saying that they were going to have the money by the March 31 have to pay, and if they can’t, it means they signed the form under misleading conditions.

According to the SRC’s general secretary, Fasiha Hassan, the university cannot deregister students due to financial exclusion. Only students can deregister themselves.

“No student can be deregistered unless you are academically excluded,” says Hassan.

 

Men’s Res apologise for ‘sexist’ tweets

After accusations of misogyny Men’s Residence House (MRH) Committee released a statement on Twitter apologising for the sexually offensive tweets they posted on Sunday night.

“We regret the posts, and would like to officially and profusely, and unconditionally apologise to anyone and all women who have taken offence to from the posts,” read the statement, which was issued on Tuesday night.

The MRH House Committee told students that the posts were “never meant to come across as or be conceived as offensive”.“We assure you that internal action is being taken to ensure that such an incident should not ever occur again.”

The statement comes after students had accused Men’s res, also known as the Raiders, of writing sexist and misogynistic tweets. “Raiders can you tell girls that you chow to stop screaming like they dying. Busy murring noise here like lawn mowers,” read the initial tweet.

SILENT SCREAMS: Men's Res Raiders have been criticized follwing tweets over sexual discrimination. Photo: Rafieka Williams

SILENT SCREAMS: Men’s Res Raiders have since apologised for tweets which accused them of sexual discrimination.                     Photo: Rafieka Williams

 

After fellow students on Twitter raised objections, Men’s res replied with a series of controversial tweets. “Regardless of the day, some of us need to study and the gal (sic) here screaming like a dying bear,” read one of their responses.

“They were well within their right to complain because it’s a residence, it’s a communal area we have to respect each other’s space however I think they could have used another platform to voice their opinions,”

SRC member Fasiha Hassan said that the SRC condemned the tweets: “We have since engaged with the relevant parties and they have since released an apology.” Hassan added that the SRC does not “condone any sort of anti-feminist or chauvinistic comments, we are all about equal rights for both male and female.”

Fourth-year student Nkululeko Nkosi, one of the students who was vocal against the tweets, described the apology as “amiable”, however he said that “there’s a need for urgent change” at Men’s res. “This is not an isolated incident,” Nkosi said.

The tweets which were meant to raise student concerns on noise disruption at the res were criticised in their approach at addressing the matter.“They were well within their right to complain because it’s a residence, it’s a communal area we have to respect each other’s space however I think they could have used another platform to voice their opinions,” said Sunnyside resident Nothando Siboto, 2nd year BA.

Residence cluster manager Doreen Nusewa said they have not received any complaints on the issue from Men’s res. “I have not received any complaints, we expect that the students to come to us if they have any issues,” Nusewa