My two cents on student funding

By Sihle Jack

I find it praiseworthy that newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela has decided on a salary sacrifice in order for deserving, talented students to be awarded a chance to register at Rhodes University. Mabizela, who plans on sacrificing around R300 000 this year can be praised for his efforts to keep deserving students in school. Taking from one’s salary nowadays, where everything is about  oneself and making it to the top all on your own is a hard thing to do. Such acts of humility should be an example to us students and staff to do the little bit that we can to contribute to fellow South Africans accessing tertiary education. In fact, I think that he has challenged all of us to do what we can to make sure that our peers are not shut out of such opportunities.

Education funding in South Africa is a very problematic sphere to look at and one which has to be tackled head on. Here at Rhodes University we were faced with a funding issue at the start of the year when 130 students were turned away due to there being no money to fund their studies.

The One Million Rand Campaign started by the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC)  was an initiative started to help students pay their registration fees after the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bailed out on paying the students’ fees.

“Now this is what an SRC does. SRC of the year already.” This is a comment I found on the Rhodes SRC  page after a student shared a YouTube video of the University of the Witwatersrand SRC President, Mcebo Dlamini talking about money raised for under privileged students.

Shortly after news of this initiative surfaced, the Walter Sisulu University SRC also boarded on a mission to raise money (R900 000) for students at their Mthatha, East London and Butterworth campuses. Both SRCs doing commendable work, especially seeing as the state itself could not do anything for struggling students countrywide.

Now what I have been gathering from the SRC page is that Rhodes students also want to follow suit behind the footsteps of the Wits and WSU SRCs. While I am all for helping other talented students get an education, I do not see how we would be as successful as the two other universities. Our small student body is obviously my main concern followed by the fact that we live in a relatively poor town with a very high unemployment rate. If Grahamstown were a wealthy town it would be easy to try and get sponsors from businesses but when there is Rhodes, other education institutions, organisations and initiatives in Grahamstown also hoping for sponsorship from the very same businesses, that then means that we (the community) end up crippling the businesses we look to on a daily basis.

Efforts to raise money for a bursary fund should not be out of our league but maybe projects such as the Pocket Money Fund, where the money is shared amongst a number of students should be continued and strengthened. Having a bursary fund is also not a bad option although it does not cater to a larger number of students. Only once we are satisfied with the money generated from the Give 5 Campaign can we then embark on such a mission.

Can we do more for underprivileged students? Yes we can! Can we raise the same amount of money raised by the SRCs from other institutions? Probably, but with a very good strategy! We have been challenged by the Vice Chancellor to do more and show our spirit of Ubuntu so we have to take him on.

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