If Thembelani Mkhize (22) doesn’t get financial assistance for his studies next year, then he has no idea how he’s going to pay for his tuition. “I am the first born of three siblings from an unemployed single mother,” says Thembelani, a second-year politics and sociology student at the University of Cape Town. Thembelani’s first two years of study were funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). But NSFAS has been in the news lately for not having enough money to assist all eligible students. If no alternative funding means are found, then 50% of eligible applicants won’t get study loans in 2015. The funding Thembelani got, covered his tuition and residence fees. He comes from eNanda, a township in Durban, Kwazulu Natal. His mother only had to pay R1700 a year, as per agreement with NSFAS.
What happens now?
In the meantime, NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education and Training are seeking alternative means of funding. Their plan is to continue talking to the Government Employees Pension Fund, Public Investment Corporation and various other interested parties. There’s also a renewed focus in recovering monies from employed former students. Students are required to repay their loans once they start earning R30 000 a year and above. Students have been said to have a tendency of not settling their loans once they start working after graduating.
Thembelani says he only learned of NSFAS’ inability to assist all students from the media. Though he submitted his application on time for a loan for 2015, no one from NSFAS informed him of the current problem. “I normally get my response before the end of the year so I cannot panic yet, even though I’m nervous I may be part of the 50% that doesn’t get considered.”
Financial aid is not the only form of funding
Thembelani admits that he would be devastated if he does not get the study loan from NSFAS. But he says he is prepared to look for other sources of funding. “People need to know that financial aid is not the only form of funding there is.” But, says Thembelani, it’s very hard to get a bursary as a humanities student. “Companies want to sponsor engineers and accountants.” Without the money from NSFAS, it would have been harder for him to ever set foot in a lecture room. For now, though, he’ll have to be patient. “I am just waiting for a response like I do every year,” he concludes.
For more info, check out this article from the People’s Assembly.
Photography by @Ric3hard. Note: Person in pictures is not Thembelani Mkhize
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