Students have recently complained about the Postgraduate Merit Award not paying them even after their three months of service to their various departments

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Confusion about why PMA students are still not paid. Photo: Provided

Postgraduate Merit Award (PMA) students from across multiple faculties have not been paid their stipends despite providing work hours to the university.

The PMA is awarded to academically deserving students who wish to further their postgraduate studies, on condition that students repay the scheme by working six hours at their various departments.

But despite the hours being worked students and administrators from several departments confirm that many have not been paid. PMA covers tuition fees to a maximum of R45 000 plus a stipend varying according to the level of study. Honours students receive R7 000 a year, Masters students receive R7 800 and PhD candidates get a stipend of R10 000.

There are just under a 1 000 PMA students at Wits. It is not known exactly how many have not been paid their stipends.

In the Anthropology department alone, all seven of the PMA students have not been paid their stipend which were due at the beginning of this academic block. Wits Vuvuzela spoke to three schools in the Engineering Faculty, five departments in the Faculty of Humanities as well as the Geology department in the School of Environmental Sciences. All had PMA students who complained they had not been paid their stipends.

Anjuli Webster, a Masters student and Anthropology tutor said that no one from the Bursaries and Scholarships Office has explained why many of them had not been paid. Webster also complained about only receiving her acceptance letter at the end of March, however, she was supposed to claim her stipend two weeks before. She says she feels that this delay in sending the acceptance letters was one of the reasons why students are still not paid.

“This is one of the many discrepancies that other students are unhappy about,” said Webster.

Vinesha Singh from the Bursaries and Scholarships Office conceded that the first PMA payments usually take longer to be processed but that is only because acceptance letters have to be signed before receiving first stipends. She said that of the almost 1 000 PMA students due stipends, only twenty of them received their acceptance letters late and emails were sent out to explain the delay.

Singh said that emails were sent out as early as February but even with that, students still sent documents with missing information meaning their stipends could not be processed.

“I’m not sure of how many students we have paid so far but the only students who shouldn’t be paid, are those haven’t signed their acceptance letters or handed in things late,” Singh said.

Molefi Makola, who is the administrator at the Anthropology department, said that tutors not being paid was strictly a PMA issue.  The tutors that were hired directly by their department, had already been paid.

“Students being students get angry and come to the department, not knowing that there’s nothing we can do,” said Makola.

One PMA science student told Wits Vuvuzela that he was used to PMA paying late and he did not expect to receive his stipend within the next three months.

Lindiwe Malindi, a tutor in the Sociology department, said, “The people dealing with PMA told me that there was a backlog and they were still processing our documents but no one confirmed when the money will be ready. Apparently last year, people only got paid months later.”

Ayotunde Awosusi, from the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering said that he has been a beneficiary of the PMA for three years and although he has not been paid as of yet, he still believes that the process is a highly efficient one.