The Minister of Higher Education has announced a new financial intervention in tertiary education.
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brewed last weekend after a number of Wits students alleged that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had withdrawn funding offers with scant explanation for its actions.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.”
WITH R780 000 already pledge for the “One Million One Month” campaign, an official launch with the campaign’s ambassadors will be taking place this Monday.
Poet Lebo Mashile and Advocate George Bizos will be attending the launch as ambassadors. Tobecome an ambassador one has to pledge at least R1 000 to the cause.
Fighting NSFAS insufficiency
Around 2 788 students were left stranded when NSFAS (National Students Financial Aid Scheme), rejected their applications due to insufficient funds. To address the issue, the Wits SRC launched the “One Million, One Month” campaign during the Wits Welcome Day on February 9, in hopes of raising money for the remaining students who cannot afford registration.
So far R300 000 has been promised through pledges, commitments and contributions from NGO’s, alumni, and members of the Wits community. An additional R480 000 has already been raised through corporations and donors.
“We’ve got commitments and contributions for about R300 000 but there’s no money in the bank … The money hasn’t necessarily come in,” said Sheera Kalla, SRC deputy president.
The average Wits student contributes anything from R10 to R100 but the SRC is encouraging all students to contribute R100 to reach the goal.
The “One million One Month” campaign will not solve the NSFAS shortfall at Wits, which the SRC estimates to be R174-million, but the contributions will help in the registration of some students.
“So yes, we might not be able to raise R174-million but we will be able to actually change quite a few student’s [lives] just by allowing them to register because at the end of the day you have the rest of the year to save, but if you are not registered then you are not a Wits student,” Kalla said.
Real student leaders
Students have turned to social media to praise the campaign.
One student, Ernest Khathu Hasha tweeted out that Wits still has “real student leaders indeed”.
“Any problem does have a solution. #1Million1Month,” he said.
The official launch will be happening on Monday afternoon at the Great Hall from 12 pm to 3 pm.
The “One Million One Month” campaign was announced at Wits Welcome Day by SRC President Mcebo Dlamini.
Wits University has received R100 million from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. While the university already has plans for the money, vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib says universities around the country need more funding if they are to respond to national imperatives and remain globally competitive. Read the full statement below:
STATEMENT: R100 MILLION DONATION FOR WITS TO ADVANCE ITS TEACHING AND LEARNING ACTIVITIES
The University of the Witwatersrand announced today that it is the recipient of a R100 million donation. The individual donor who is a long-time supporter of the University has chosen to remain anonymous. The sum of R10 million has been earmarked for the Wits Arts Museum, and the remaining R90 million is to be deployed for the advancement of research and/or teaching as determined by the university.
“It is a great honour for Wits to receive funding of this magnitude from a South African who has seen it fit to invest in Wits, and in higher education, a sector that develops the future leaders of our country. We are sincerely grateful for this support, which will go a long way towards advancing the academic project and higher education in general,” says Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits University. “We are still working out the specific details of how the funds will be expended but we are always in need of funds to attract and retain talented academics and students, and to support the research and teaching activities.”
Universities around the country need more funding if they are to respond to national imperatives and remain globally competitive. Universities obtain their funding via three income streams – state subsidy, student fees and third stream income. However, given the current realities, higher education institutions, and particularly research-intensive universities, are increasingly looking towards third stream income in order to run top-notch universities.
“It is not often that universities in South Africa receive funding of this magnitude from sole philanthropists, as the majority of our external funding is sourced from corporates and state funding agencies locally, and international trusts and foundations,” adds Habib. “A distinguishing feature of this donation is also that it is unrestricted. The university leadership has been granted the autonomy to deploy this donation as it deems best to enhance teaching and research at Wits. Such donations are rare and is to be particularly applauded. These donations are important for Wits to remain at the cutting edge of teaching, research and service excellence, especially at a time when public funding for higher education is stagnant.”
The Wits Group has an annual turnover of about R4 billion.
“I believe that Wits is an active social leader that seeks to advance the public good. An investment in Wits and in our universities today is an investment in our youth, and the future of our country,” concludes Habib.
Wits student organisation, Project W are being challenged on their apolitical and non-partisan stance, after they used the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) offices during the Student Representative Council (SRC) election period.
In a Facebook post, Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) candidate Shaeera Kalla called the organisation out for claiming to be “apolitical” and tweeted a photo of Project W posters on the door of the SAUJS office in the Matrix.
“This kind of sums Project W up. apolitical my foot!” wrote Kalla.
Project W has refused to get involved in non-student issues, including the recent war in Gaza. PYA has criticised this and accused the organisation of being funded by pro-Israel organisations such as SAUJS.
Project W and SAUJS maintain no affiliation
Project W member Tim Karayiannides emphasised that the party does not receive any support from SAUJS, “nor do we support SAUJS” and said the organisation merely lent them an office. He said Project W did not have its own office space and laid the blame for this at the PYA.
“SAUJS lent us their offices when we were failed by the PYA-led SRC that ought to be encouraging more robust political competition,” he said.
According to SRC president, Shafee Verachia, many new clubs and society organisations (CSOs), such as Project W which was founded last year, do not get office space.
“There is a mass shortage of resources for CSOs,” Verachia said. “It is not just Project W, but many clubs and societies which are affected by the university’s continuous lack of investment into student life and CSOs.”
SAUJS chairperson Ariela Carno denied Project W was working out of her organisation’s office. She said SAUJS was only “helping out” Project W.
“They stored some stuff in our office, which means that they are not functioning out of the SAUJS office. They merely used out office for some storage space.”
According to Carno, other societies did offer to help Project W, but SAUJS’ office was “just better located”.
Carno said SAUJS was not officially affiliated to Project W but “SAUJS had Jewish candidates running with Project W, hence SAUJS was supporting our Jewish candidates.”
Project W allegedly funded by SA Jewish community
Kalla also claimed Project W receives funding from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), “whose headquarters are in Israel”. The SAJBD is based in Johannesburg and operates throughout South Africa.
Project W chairperson and SRC member Jamie Mighti, responded by saying his organisation and election campaign was funded by members.
“The organisation has about 200 guys who are really committed,” he said. “We have a budget of about R50 000 and most of that came from the candidates.”
Last month, he told Wits Vuvuzela that Project W candidates are required to contribute R1 000 to the campaign.
He explained that some of the candidates have more money than others, so they all put in different amounts. “I put R5 000 towards the campaign myself, because I believe in what we do.”
He called the attack on their funding by other parties and election candidates “malicious”, saying that rivals are trying to do is discredit the way Project W is run, “because it is different from the way their parties.”
Karayiannides backed up Mighti’s statement: “Project W has never accepted nor received money from the SAJBD. We have a number of Jewish supporters and candidates and may have had donors who happen to be Jewish.” He accused Kalla of anti-semitism.
The SAJBD was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
Wits Vuvuzela: Parties, show us the money, August 29, 2014