The funding struggle is real

My name is Tebogo Langa* I am studying  a bachelor of Accounting and I am in my second year.

What happened was, I have, I had an outstanding fee of R19 433 and because I wrote a deferred exam in January automatically my NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) application for this year was declined, so I was told. I went to the SRC to find out if they can’t help me register because that was my main objective coming back to school this year.

There is a particular gentleman that promised that he would help, he even spoke to my brother last week Wednesday and said that he will meet Fees Office to ensure that by Friday I am registered. So on Thursday, the day after, I think the 4th of February, I call him he doesn’t answer his phone, it goes straight to voicemail.

So I call my brother and tell him that “listen, faculty has given me until the 8th as the last day to register, if not then I’m not gonna be able to come back to school.” So he had to take a loan to pay the outstanding fee, a loan of R20 000, and that’s how I managed to register.

I lost both my parents. I am from a family of five kids. My eldest brother, he is the one who actually takes care of us, he is a Metro Police, he works for JMPD, so that’s how he managed to get the loan coz he has a payslip, he qualified for it. But repaying it means that his family and our family are now having to do some financial adjustments and what seems like basic essential food to a lot of people to us is like luxury. From that we also need to cut down to ensure that he doesn’t go into further debt. I am the only one in the family to go to varsity.

I wasn’t [on Financial Aid] last year. I applied for it but they said my application papers got lost in the system. That’s why I didn’t have funding last year. But the year before I did have NSFAS.

I had to pay registration fee last year by myself, after paying it they said that all the appeal decisions would be out in March. And when they were out, in their system I basically hadn’t applied because they didn’t have my supporting documents. So throughout last year I have been contacting higher departments, I’ve got emails I can send them to you. I’ve got emails stating that I’ve been tryna find funding but when they come back into the school and they find out my financial standing, whether I qualify for NSFAS or not, they say they can’t help me because I’m not a NSFAS student. But they didn’t look into the fact whether I qualify for it or not but the fact that the system says I didn’t apply, they couldn’t help me.

I have appealed the NSFAS decision because they declined my application because I wrote a deferred, but the appeal will only be answered on the 31st of March so I think then will I know which way to go, but if the appeal is unsuccessful I don’t know how

I am going to pay this year’s fees.

I stay in Alexandra so I travel to and from school. I have never stayed at res before because when I had NSFAS I didn’t want to pay a bigger bill, but now that the years are going by and the workload is getting tougher its actually exhausting travelling, spending over an hour on the road and not having to stay on campus longer because of transportation so you are actually limited as to what you can and cannot do on campus.

I think the one thing I have learnt from working with the SRC in particular is, I know they’re working with a lot of people but can they not make promises that they cannot fulfill because had my brother not gone and took out this loan I wouldn’t be a student right now.

I know people who owed up to R60 000 from last year alone, those kinds of people can’t get that sort of money right now. I mean if the bank were to give you a loan of R60 000 they’d need actual property as surety, and say the parents fail to pay [the loan] back they now need to sell the only thing that they have, their only home.”

*As told to Zimasa Mpemnyama

*Names have been changed

Studying from the streets of Jozi

Zakhele Ndlela*,a part-time Wits student and business owner, began living on the streets of Johannesburg after being evicted from his building.

Johannesburg took root in a gold rush and many glittering opportunities – real or imagined – remain in its bustling streets. Going home a failure is not an option – you have to make it.

The ideal Johannesburg is appealing but the reality of life in the city is not always what it is made out to be. For 38-year-old Zakhele Ndlela* living on the streets while studying part-time at Wits is his reality.


MAKING A NEW LIFE: Making it in Joburg isn’t easy but being homeless doesn’t mean giving up on your dreams. Photo: Samantha Camara

Ndlela left his hometown in KwaMashu, KwaZulu-Natal for Johannesburg in 2006. After a year of film school he ventured out with some partners and set up a business. Two business attempts and failures later Ndlela decided to go “solo”, starting his own media company in 2010 while renting a flat in Jeppestown.

Joburg life

“The flats are not looked after, they are very dirty, [and] sometimes there is no electricity,” Ndlela said. After six months of people complaining, Ndlela realised the building had been hijacked and they were paying the wrong person. “Most of the people that own these things have guns, if you don’t pay you go out. Sometimes people are scared of them, you don’t have support,” Ndlela said.

Eventually, the owner of the building returned in 2011 and used Red Ant Security and Eviction services, often called “The Red Ants” because of the red overalls and helmets they wear, to evict everybody in the building. Ndlela lost everything he owned when he was evicted from his flat. He only had the clothes he was wearing.

“And worse, that day, the rain came … there is nothing that you can take there. You just have to go somewhere and hustle,” said Ndlela.

Ndlela then went to stay in Park Station where he slept outside for 18 months before moving to a Johannesburg street where he still is today.

According to Ndlela, people on the street stay there because “it is cheaper than paying rent”.

Park Station has facilities where people can pay R10 and bath before going about their daily routine. “Up until you feel you have made enough money then you can start looking for your own place but then most people, they haven’t,” Ndlela said.

Shelters are tough too

Many people on the street choose to stay there instead of going to shelters because shelters are over-crowded, strict and have a lot of crime.

“You can’t go to a place where they steal your stuff,” he said.

“It’s about protecting me, I protect myself, [and] I don’t want people to know me or know about me. This is what I do here. It’s my hustle and I need to do my hustling until I’m ok, that’s how things are outside there,” Ndlela said.

The building that Ndlela was evicted from has now been revamped and became part of the popular Maboneng District in the city.

Despite his current circumstances, Ndlela continues to work and run his media company, which runs two websites. He uses free Wi-Fi around the city to run his company while writing episodes for TV programme Isibaya and studying journalism part time at Wits.

*Name has been changed at his request.


Hip-hop champion against all odds

Hip-hop artist, rapper and Witsie, Gigi LaMayne will be representing South Africa at the Miami Music Conference at the end of the month.

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Gigi LaMayne is representing SA hip-hop at the Miami Music Conference.                          Photo: Ilanit Chernick

AGAINST ALL ODDS: Gigi LaMayne is representing SA hip-hop at the Miami Music Conference. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

LaMayne, otherwise known as Genesis Garbriella Tina Manney, is a third-year BA student who has beaten the odds to get to this point.

She grew up in what she calls “a dysfunctional family”. Her mom, who has been her ‘rock’, left to work as a nurse in England when she was just seven, and returned only when LaMayne was 15.

“My dad was an alcoholic and things were not stable … We moved around a lot. I grew up in the rough parts of Lenasia, Yeoville and Soweto.”

Her parents divorced during her time as a Richard Branson Scholar in England.

LaMayne was passionate about music from age 11 but discovered her talent for hip-hop through her love of poetry at boarding school.

“I was bullied at school and music was my only way out. I would just put my earphones in and find a place to listen away from everyone.”

“I’d always wanted to be a performer but just didn’t know which direction to take it. I studied drama at school too so there were a lot of options.”

“It’s not easy for women to make it in the hip-hop world. Women are so objectified in the entertainment and music world.”

Her journey into music was a difficult one. She was turned down four times by local record labels and when she approached Dream Team SA, was convinced they would “say no too”.

“It’s not easy for women to make it in the hip-hop world. Women are so objectified in the entertainment and music world.”

In her first year at Wits she was the first female to make it to the finals of the Sprite Uncontainable competition, where she came second.

She was then voted best female Hip-Hop artist in 2013 and 2014 at the South African Hip-Hop Awards. Recently she won the Jack Daniels music scout competition and part of the winning prize is to represent South Africa at the Miami Music Conference.

Her message to Witsies: “In the words of Eric Thomas, “you should be like a lion, not a gazelle”. Always have something internal to drive you. There needs to be a “why” in everything you do.”

Slice of life: ‘BA’ doesn’t mean ‘bugger ALL’

Queenin Masuabi

Queenin Masuabi

After matriculating, I assumed that the days of hierarchies were over. Being in an environment filled with intellectuals, I thought that everyone was open-minded enough to understand the term “different strokes for different folks”.

This was until an engineering student confided in me about not wanting to date Bachelor of Arts (BA) students. Being a BA student myself, I was shocked at this statement. I thought that there was a disease that broke out which happened to only affect BA students, but boy was I wrong. Apparently, BA students were known for their laziness. BA has been dubbed the “easy course” which does not require much hard work. These students were said to spend all of their time on the library lawns and the Matrix where they would smoke hubbly-bubbly while other students are slaving away.

This made it difficult to date them because they have too much free time and could never understand when other students were studying all day. As if I didn’t have enough problems, now I had to deal with the fact that people would undermine me because of the course I chose.

“I thought there was a disease that broke out which happened to only affect BA students, but boy was I wrong.”

According to my knowledge most lazy, unintelligent people prefer to relax in the comfort of their homes. However, BA students are even worse. They cash in on bursaries or thousands of rands paid by their parents’ for fees then “chill” all day on campus.

Hierarchy on campus

Top of the hierarchy, in this parallel universe, are medical students followed by engineering students and all other courses in the science faculty. Commerce and Law students are next and right at the bottom of the hierarchy are BA and Education students. I wondered if this was based on fact or opinion. One thing’s for sure, I felt the condescending tone from people when I told them what I was studying, even from students who take up to six years to complete a degree that should take just three or four.

I thought we had left such a mentality in the 1980s when studying certain courses was seen to be more acceptable than others. Some people do genuinely have a passion for the social sciences. They are content with what they are studying and are not too stressed about conforming to what is acceptable in the Wits society.

“According to my knowledge most lazy, unintelligent people prefer to relax in the comfort of their homes.”

After three years of undergraduate studies I would not change anything at all because I followed my heart. The bottom line is that we were all accepted into Wits, whether it was to study Medicine or Education.

All students should be respected for what they are passionate about without being judged. This means that the hierarchy must crumble and everyone must come back to earth.

OPINION: Battle for acceptance of homosexuality in universities

By Brian Tebogo Mashego, third year BA student

Last week Thursday I was chilling with a group of friends at the Matrix building at Wits University, and hell broke loose when one of my friends made a reckless statement about a fellow gay student.

Within a wink of an eye we then interrogated his thinking around the issue of homosexuality, and as we were having this conversation I realised that although our South African Constitution theoretically ensure equality for all, social acceptance of homosexuality and homosexuals is generally lacking especially by those of us who grew up in traditional and religious families.

The discussion reminded me of a heart breaking event that happened to a fellow student, Thabiso; who was a colleague of mine when I was studying at the Vaal University of Technology.

Thabiso was contesting the student elections when his opponents found out that he was gay. The entire election campaign then became focused around his sexuality, throwing his campaign into chaos. By the time voting began students didn’t want anything to do with him. My heart was broken because students didn’t judge him on the basis of his competent leadership skills, but on his sexuality.

That event robbed us of a having a potentially talented student leader. As I began the discussion of the unfair treatment of Thabiso at my old campus I was met with criticism, losing some of my friends along the way.

Many talented students who are capable of leading the student community are denied that opportunity based on their sexuality.

Our discussion at the matrix continued to raise questions about the prejudices that prevail today, especially amongst the student community.

Chunks of the student population on our campuses still embrace hostile attitudes and unfair treatment towards gay students.

Of greater concern than the utterance of my friends’ homophobic remarks, is the fact that – like Thabiso – many talented students who are capable of leading the student community are denied that opportunity based on their sexuality. Our broader society has not only influenced this negative thinking, but have also lead us as students to belittle and disqualify them based on their sexual orientation. We are told that it is “immoral” and “unafrican” to be gay or lesbian. Our selective morality is revealing.

I think we are facing a challenge of creating a supportive society that is inclusive and respectful of gays and lesbians.

Homosexuality is a topic around which our culture still gets awfully skittish. This became visible to me when I was talking to a few homosexual students. Most of them feel that greater hostility is shown to them by ‘traditional’ and religious people.

Thabiso’s case teaches us that there is a great need for our student communities to begin embracing sexual diveristy on our campuses. This must start with our student leadership.

They must breakthrough barriers and speak out against this unjust treatment on behalf of gay and lesbian students. They must do this because it’s their obligation as student leaders and are supposed to represent the entire student body.