More students have been able to register on time and get access to accommodation through the Hardship Fund.

The Wits University Hardship Fund has helped close to 1 000 students with additional contributions received from the university and the Student Representative Council (SRC).

The SRC deputy president Rebecca Mahaule said hundreds of Wits students had been able to secure accommodation and also register for this academic year.

“About 903 students were fully assisted internally (with Wits accommodation) and externally (private South Point student accommodation) and we paid upfront to Wits residences for deposits,” Mahaule said. “We realised that the allocated amount of R4 million was not enough, so we went to Wits management and they agreed to register everyone who has been funded by the Hardship Fund.”

Brian Xaba, a second-year BSc civil engineering student, is one of the beneficiaries who received aid from the fund and was therefore able to put down a deposit for accommodation.

“I moved in the same day to res after I was approved by the Hardship Fund, and it also helped me to register on time,” he said.

The Wits Hardship Fund was formally approved in 2018 to assist students in urgent need of funding for registration and accommodation. This year the fund was allocated R10 million, which fell short of the amount needed to help the high number of students seeking additional funding. With help from Wits and the SRC, the fund was increased to R17 million this year.

The SRC said accommodation becomes a major need at the beginning of each year and while most students might have residence offers, many struggle to find the money to secure accommodation.

“We have students who come to our offices with nothing at all, so we call out external accommodation assistance and immediate pay out if they (the students) have good academic records,” Mahaule told Wits Vuvuzela.

Wits Chief Financial Officer, Prakash Desai, said the Hardship Fund aided students in all areas including fees, accommodation and historical debt – with a signed agreement covering a once-off amount.

“The growing demand for accommodation is for students who did not qualify for NSFAS due to academic pass hurdles, those who lost their external sponsors and those who did not apply on time for NSFAS,” Desai said.

Sizwe Lubazi, a third-year BCom accounting student, had historical debts but was able to register and pay the first fee deposit at an off-campus residence: “I was owing an amount of R38 000, so after signing an acknowledgement form my deposit fee was paid for accommodation at South Point student accommodation,” he said.

The SRC said it successfully negotiated with Wits to increase historical debt limits for access to the Hardship Fund from R100 000 to R120 000 for its beneficiaries, so that more students could be helped.

“The Hardship Fund is meant to mitigate the challenges that come at the start of each year,” said Mahaule.

FEATURED IMAGE: Students make inquiries about registration and accommodation at the fees office in Solomon Mahlangu House. Photo: Zikhona Klaas