Xatyiswa Maqashalala (25) is a student at the University of Fort Hare studying towards a Bsc degree in Agriculture funded by NSFAS. We asked her about her experiences as an NSFAS student at the university’s Alice campus.
Xatyiswa has a strong passion for public speaking and ambitions of becoming a motivational speaker. But she chose to study agriculture instead because of the job opportunities within the field. Despite the high number of unemployed graduates, she is hopeful for the future. “I don’t believe I will be unemployed this time next year. There are spaces for me,” she says.
University of Fort Hare is the oldest historically black university in South Africa, with political icons such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Desmond Tutu all forming part of the university’s alumni. But even with such great political names, Xatyiswa says the university is still behind in terms of infrastructure, like lecture rooms and auditoriums and the lack of lab equipment amongst other things, especially when compared to other old universities like Rhodes.
Everyone has their role to play.
“NSFAS hasn’t failed anyone. But we can’t continue with the model as it currently stands. The system is flawed,” she says. “NSFAS should be running itself by making its own money through people paying back.”
NSFAS allows you to decide when and how to pay back your loan. The loan is set up in such a way that you can pay R100 a month. So, with proper budgeting you can pay back your loan.
“It’s the beneficiary’s ethical responsibility because they made a contractual agreement,” says Xatyiswa. She feels NSFAS should be helping students find employment as that would help solve the problem of graduates not being able to pay back the loan. She as well the other panellists and people in attendance at the VIP Debate Club titled “Free Education: Has NSFAS failed us?” suggested that the responsibility of providing funding to graduates should be shared, given that the private sector is also in need of young talent. “Big companies like American Swiss should be taxed excessively to fund students that are on NSFAS,” she says.
When asked if she thinks free education in South Africa is viable, she answered no. “Not yet, because the government can’t afford it. The government already provides social welfare grants. Considering we already have debt it wouldn’t make sense to add to the pressure.”
Do you think all NSFAS beneficiaries are capable of paying back their loans? Should big private sector companies be taxed excessively to help fund students that are on NSFAS?