A non-profit initiative wants to help humanities students graduate regardless of historic debt.
Each year as graduations roll around, some students watch on despondently, knowing they will miss theirs because of fees owed to the university. A group of professionals is looking to put an end to that for some.
The Canon Collins Thekgo Bursary promotes access to higher education and has been assisting students with debt to cover the shortfall needed to get them their academic records.
One of the founding members of the initiative, Grace Musila told Wits Vuvuzela that the bursary only covers R10 000 of student debt and that humanities students are the focus as funding options remain minimal for these students.
Musila said this year, they are covering students in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Northwest who have completed their studies. Selection criteria includes academic performance, community participation and financial need.
“Our aim is to support such students to release their academic certificates so they can proceed with other plans, whether that is [to] further[their] studies or pursue employment opportunities,” Musila said.
Wits University senior manager of financial accounting Amanda Kort told Wits Vuvuzela that the number of students who are eligible to graduate this year but will not be able to due to outstanding debt was estimated to be at 2800 with a total debt of R138m.
Kort said that students with a gross household income of less than R600 000 per annum are assisted by the university. “These students may sign an acknowledgement of debt if they owe less than R15 000 and may enter into a payment arrangement to make payment after they have started working.”
Wits has a Discretionary Fund which students are advised to apply for. Kort said although funding is not guaranteed, the university can match students with the financial need to donor’s requirements.
For this year, applications for the bursary will close on April 26, and can be submitted here.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits Chancellor, Dr Judy Dlamini commences the ceremony. Photo: Colin Hugo/file
HAVE YOU ‘HERD’?: Mr and Miss Kudu are pictured holding “hoofs” at one of last week’s graduation ceremonies. The cute kudu couple are just friends in real-time, but Mr Kudu does admittedly have a little kudu crush. Photo: Tracey Ruff
As the sun rose each morning last week over the concrete jungle of Wits’ main campus, two friendly kudus could be seen trotting hoof-in-hoof towards chattering flocks of an exclusive species: the Witsie graduate.
Bongani and Andy, or Mr and Miss Kudu, Wits’ magnificent mascots, were a common sighting at last week’s graduation festivities, although getting a snapshot with them required some effort from the throngs of eager graduates.
A rare pair
Some graduates were lucky enough to get a photo of the cute kudus holding hoofs. Be sure to hold on to these pictures, graduates, because as of next year, this kudu couple will become extinct.
Alas, Mr Kudu and Miss Kudu will themselves evolve into graduates, leaving the jungle wide-open for a new kudu pairing to rule the roost.
As sad as this may be, Mr and Miss Kudu have had great adventures together, from Mr Kudu’s head falling off at a soccer match (to the horror of those who believed he was a real kudu) to Miss Kudu tripping over her gown at graduation (while Mr Kudu laughed). All in all, this dynamic duo has experienced more than any kudu in the Kruger Park has.
It’s just a little kudu crush
Andy-the-Witsie met Bongani-the-kudu for the first time when she had to “mascot” with him. And was it love at first sight for the two kudus?
Well, come now, we all know kudus don’t really fall in love. And besides, Miss Kudu “doesn’t think Mr Kudu’s [real-time] girlfriend would enjoy the idea of any romance” between the two kudus.
“As cute as he may be…the kudus are siblings, so romance really is a no-no.”
[pullquote]”She’s an amazing human-being [or kudu], fun, never moody and so mature.”[/pullquote]
Asked if Mr and Miss Kudu were a real-life couple, Bongani joked: “I wish. She’s really pretty … She’s an amazing human-being [or kudu], fun, never moody and so mature.”
And does he have a little kudu crush on her? “Yeah I do, I won’t lie.”
Aw. It seems the kudus make a perfect pair, with Miss Kudu saying they “have a really cool relationship”.
“He’s a really funny guy and I enjoy working with him.”
So, next time you see Mr and Miss Kudu at an event, you won’t need to ask them that I’m-dying-to-know question: are you a real-life couple? I mean, you wouldn’t get an answer anyway. We all know kudus can’t talk …
The annual Humanities Careers Expo was shunned by major companies after only two organisations showed up for the event on August 29.
Thabang Madileng of the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU), which organised the event, said 13 different companies had booked for the expo but had simply not turned up. Only Robert Bosch indicated that they would not be able to attend.
“This year we tried to make it diverse by inviting employers from non-governmental organisations, government and the private sector. We think they did not come because we did not attach a fee to the expo,” explained Madileng.
Humanities students felt let down and disappointed by the no-show. BA Honours (Media) student, Lethabo Malatsz said she was “not happy”.
“Im feeling discouraged, I’m having second thoughts. I’m thinking I wasted my time doing humanities. I’m doing my post grad now and was hoping I would find companies offering bursaries. I thought I would see YFM, SABC and News24 here. IT, Accounting, Commerce and Chemistry career expos had major turnouts.”
Madileng said there would be another general expo this year but not another one exclusively for the Humanities. Responding to questions about the poor response, Madileng said: “It’s a big concern. We market for all students but just struggle to find employers for our humanities students. Some companies have specifications, like engineers and accountants.
“Consulting companies usually take students from humanities but it’s mostly students who do Industrial Psychology or other programmes that are industry specific.”
Vega contact navigator, Palesa Mofokeng said the university should target companies that best benefit the students and invite those.
“It’s not that there is no demand for humanities students. It is just poor planning. If companies are made to pay R500 to book their spots here, trust me they would be here because people always turn up when they are made to pay.”
Vega came to Wits to recruit post graduate students for the programmes the college offers. The second organisation that attended was the Avril Elizabeth Home for the intellectually disabled, represented by Linda Spangenberg and Jenny Ford. Spangenberg said the home was looking for volunteers to do their accounts as well as physiotherapists to assist the physically handicapped.
TWO hundred million rand of national funding for graduate students in debt has apparently gone unused by Witsies.
The fund was set aside by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande in his budget speech in May. The fund was created for students who have either been blacklisted or are in debt and cannot graduate because of their unpaid fees.
The fund will clear their debt so that they can find employment. Since the announcement, the Wits SRC says they are having difficulty reaching the students, and that no students have come forward to claim from the fund.
Wits SRC treasurer, Tshepo Ndlovu, says the reason behind this apparent lack of action on the part of the affected students is miscommunication from the department of higher education.
“The department itself did not inform institutions properly, so that they might create avenues where students could know about the fund.
“There were no posters, there were no adverts. At least in newspapers there should be something that alerted those graduates that [they should] go to the relevant offices or institutions so that they can source the funding.”
Deputy Minister of Education, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, says the department expected university institutions to play their role too.
“They have to assist [and] promote that information. We thought that they would write to people who are affected,” he said.
The minister also encouraged the use of social networks in an attempt to spread awareness of the unclaimed funds. “The student leadership has to use their social networks to encourage their members to come forward and take advantage of this”.
Ndlovu says that they have begun to make efforts for those still in the university’s system.”We have lobbied the Alumni Relations office that we should try and track down the people who are still on the system and with outstanding fees.”
David Molehlane, 3rd year BA, says it was the first time he had heard of the fund. “I don’t even know who to call, the SRC, do I call the fees office? You see that’s the thing, they don’t even put the information out. That’s their problem.”
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