Witsies face uncertain future without NSFAS

Prospective journalists, doctors and accountants are among some of the Witsies who might see their dreams deferred for lack of  funding from NSFAS.

Witsie Anelisa Tuswa told Wits Vuvuzela that she was accepted into Journalism Honours at the university but may not be able to take up her place because her NSFAS application is still pending.

Tuswa has been on financial aid since her first year and receiving funding had never been a problem before.

“My mom is a domestic worker who works only three days a week and NSFAS have never been hesitant to accept me. They always gave me the full package – accommodation, food and tuition.”

Tuswa has no other funding options and if “NSFAS doesn’t fix this” she will not be able to continue her studies.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke with Marvin Mhlanga, a third year BCom Accounting student, who applied last year for NSFAS 2015 but has not yet received an outcome on his financial aid request.

“Scholarships grant me funding and some study loans require someone to pay monthly or someone to pay a certain amount monthly and my single mother can’t afford that,” Mhlanga said.

Mhlanga added  that he fears he won’t be able to “raise the money needed to pay for the registration fee”.

“Some study loans require someone to pay a certain amount monthly and my single mother can’t afford that.”

A fifth year medical student who wished to remain anonymous said he could not return to his classes because his NSFAS funding had not come through .

“Medical School started on January 5. I could not return because I was unable to register,” he said. “I don’t have the money to pay the registration fees. How am I supposed to continue?”

A second issue facing NSFSA applicants at Wits is loss of documents.

Vice-Chancellor of Academics Prof Andrew Crouch partially blamed last years postal strike for missing documents.

“Some students sent in their NSFAS applications by post and due to the strike we were unable to receive them. Some applications have only been received now months after they were sent to Wits,” he said.

Wits LLB student Andile Mbhele applied for NSFAS funding at Wits to continue his degree in 2015. Mbhele said he had not heard back from Wits and when he called them on Monday the university said “the document was missing”.

“When I asked them if I could resend the missing document, they told me it was too late,” he said. “How am I going to finish my degree with no funding?”

Mbhele said that NSFAS is his “last option” to continue his studies at Wits.

“All my hopes are with NSFAS,” he said





Students prevented from registering over NSFAS protest

Four of the 27 University of Johannesburg students arrested for protesting over financial aid have been prevented from registering for classes this year.

Last month, the students, dubbed the “UJ27” were arrested for protesting against a shortage of funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS).

[pullquote align=”right”] “The university would not let the four unregistered students onto the campus without an official escort.”[/pullquote]

The students were arrested and released with a warning after they appeared in the Newlands Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg. Twenty of the students were then suspended by UJ. Among the 20 students were the chairperson and secretary of the UJ SA Students Congress (Sasco).

Prevented from registering 

Last Friday, the suspended students won a court order forcing the university to allow them to register. However, four were still prevented from registering on Monday.

Shira’h Jeenah, chairperson of UJ Sasco and one of the four students prevented from registering told Wits Vuvuzela the university would not let the four unregistered students onto the campus without an official escort.

However, on Monday when the students came to register the security escort had not been provided by UJ Campus Protection and so the students could not register.

“The university has said that we are not allowed on campus if we do not have classes,” said Jeenah.   He added that the students have had to submit their timetables into campus protection so they may be escorted to their classes and off campus.

“We’re only allowed to be on campus 15 minutes before class and 15 minutes after,” said Jeenah.

However, according to Jeenah, the university has also accused UJ Sasco of violating the court order because the students were picketing when the court order was presented to the university administration.

The verdict awaits 

On Monday afternoon the unregistered students were outside the Kingsway campus in Auckland Park waiting to hear if their attorney was able to reach an agreement with the university to allow them to register.

[pullquote] “They [UJ] should be celebrating that their students are raising critical matters”[/pullquote]

Wits Vuvuzela contacted the university for comment but has not yet received a response.

Tebogo Thotela, deputy-secretary of Sasco Gauteng, criticised the suspension of the students and the charges they are facing.

“They [UJ] should be celebrating that their students are raising critical matters”, said Thotela.

Students left financially desperate

The suspension of the UJ students was part of a spate of nationwide protests against the lack of funds from NSFAS that had left many students financially desperate and unable to continue with their studies.

In addition to UJ, the government fund had come under fire from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), the Durban University of Technology (DUT),  and UJ for being unable to meet the financial requirements of the universities.

Thotela said that NSFAS was in arrears of R200-million with UJ and a national shortage of R 2-billion. While Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande subsequently committed R1-billion to the fund, this may not be enough to cover the financial shortages between the universities and NSFAS.

[pullquote align=”right”]”The fund is struggling of keeping up with the needs of South African students.”[/pullquote]

Wits NFSAS continues to fund students

Amidst all the protests at other universities, Wits’ NSFAS office has continued to provide students with their financial grants. Thotela said that unlike TUT and UJ, only 15% of registered Wits students rely on the government fund.

Although NSFAS received an extra R 100-million to their fund which increased it from the previous year’s total of R 8. 2-billion, the fund is struggling of keeping up with the needs of South African students.

Thotela said that the issue lies in the inevitable increase in the intake of students each year. “We’re seeing kids from a working class background coming to university and the fees are increasing as well.”