More students are needed to apply for the gap funding or else the funds return back to government according to the Wits Financial Aid and Scholarships Office (FASO)
Wits Muslim Student Association hosted a comedy show in the Wits Great Hall to raise funds for students with historic debt.
A twitter storm brewed last weekend after a number of Wits students alleged that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had withdrawn funding offers with scant explanation for its actions.
They addressed their heated allegations to Wits SRC Treasurer General Thando Mntambo, who immediately took up their grievances and included @myNSFAS in the twitter conversation.
“We have so far received numerous emails from students confirming that this is indeed happening,” said Mntambo when contacted by Wits Vuvuzela.
“We first have to understand the issue before tackling it, so the first thing being done is the collection of the database to scope the immensity of the problem while in the interim we are pursuing the channels available to us to try and get answers to this question, after which we will do what is necessary to solve the problem,” Mntambo said.
Sharon Ndlovu, a second year BA Law student, was one of the students who approached the SRC via twitter.
“I applied last year through Wits and in January I got a notification that my application was received,” Ndlovu wrote.
Ndlovu said that her application status was changed to “financial eligibility evaluated” but then last Friday, February 17, she got an SMS informing her that her application was unsuccessful due to the institution she chose. The correspondence, which has been seen by Wits Vuvuzela, advised her to apply to a TVET college and “your application may be reconsidered”.
When Ndlovu called NSFAS to query this they sang a different tune.
“They said they are short of funds,” Ndlovu said.
NSFAS Spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, clarified the confusion to Wits Vuvuzela: “All returning students who received NSFAS in 2016 were advised not to apply online because they were going to be funded automatically should they pass 50% of their modules.”
He said that those who didn’t follow the guidelines and applied online had created duplication of their details on the system as NSFAS had made advanced arrangements with universities to enrol them without having to apply.
“Therefore the system automatically rejected their application because they are already funded and are in class,” said Mamabolo.
“They shouldn’t panic and should proceed to study as normal,” he said.
However, all returning students who did not have NSFAS in the previous years (including 2016) and had applied for 2017, and were unsuccessful, are advised to appeal, not enrol in a TVET College, he said.
Sharon Ndlovu is a new applicant, and since the clarification by NSFAS, has appealed the rejection of her application.
Students have until February 28 to appeal their declined applications for funding.
A recently established fund is seeking applications from musicians who need to tour.
Wits Sport are keeping their new strategic budget allocations a secret.
The strategy has been implemented with the start of this year, where Wits Sport has cut-off funding for all but five sport clubs (rugby, football, basketball, hockey and cricket). This has forced other sport and recreational clubs to financially fend for themselves or die out.
The amount of money and its utilisation within these five clubs are “highly confidential”, according to Head of Wits Sport, Adrian Carter.
Carter’s reason for making the budget information privileged is to keep other universities or competitors from finding out “how Wits plans to climb to the top of University Sport.”
“We have needed to come up with a commercial plan to bring in funds on a sustainable basis as, quite frankly, the funds we currently receive are not sufficient for us to compete at any level, never mind Varsity Sport- hence the change in strategy,” said Carter.
Allegedly clubs were told that if they perform better than one of the top five clubs they will get funding back.
“It is a vicious circle. If we don’t get money, then we won’t attract good players and we won’t get recognition,” said third year Medicine student and member of the Wits women’s water polo team, Catherine Bezuidenhout.
Bezuidenhout said they understand that the university can’t cover every club completely, “but we need some sort of assistance.”
Fellow team mate and fourth year Medicine student, Jeanie du Toit, explained that many of her team mates already have student loans and that they can’t afford to pay for kits, transport and accommodation on their own- let alone pay for their coach.
She added that given their academic challenges the new budget decree would now demand they use their own time to fund raise; “We are all studying. Now we must give up time not only to train and work hard to bring attention to our sport, but to raise funds too.”