“Being a student in South Africa comes with so much frustration”

    After being financially excluded in her second year of study, SILONDILE CELE (20), from Adams in KZN, learnt that being a student at university takes a lot more than just passing matric. She told Lizeka Maduna her story.

    After completing matric in 2012, I applied for journalism at the Durban University of Technology through the Central Application Office. In the application I specified that I would love to be considered for financial assistance as my parents had no means to pay the tuition fees. But when I came to register in 2013, I learnt that my funding application wasn’t approved yet.

    I consulted the financial aid department on campus and they asked me to appeal in order for my application to be considered, which I did. After registering, I waited for them to get back to me but I didn’t receive any notification with regards to the pending application.

    After numerous visits to the department with no luck, I eventually told myself that they had excluded me from the packages that other students who are funded through the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) receive but I still hoped that they would pay for my fees at the end of the year. I checked my progress report at the end of the second semester and I had passed.

    In 2014 when I came for registration, I was told that I had an outstanding balance for the full amount for the previous year. I hadn’t realised that NSFAS had not paid my fees because my results were available on the system. I went back to them and I was told to appeal again but nothing happened.

    That was the most awkward moment in my life. I had hopes, but when I realised that I couldn’t return to university, they were shattered. I became desperate and helpless. Seeing my fellow classmates progress to second year was hard for me. I would have felt better if I was excluded because I had failed but it was hard to accept that I was being excluded simply because I couldn’t pay. I had passed the year and felt that I deserved to be funded.

    The high fees at institutions across the country is a major issue for me. Being a student in South Africa comes with so much hardship; most parents can’t afford to pay fees. Students’ needs and concerns should not be taken lightly because studying and getting a qualification can be life-altering.

    Although the protests may become violent and destructive at times, they are the only way to get the message across. It is wrong to vandalise property but we’re desperate for people to hear our concerns; if that’s the only way to get the attention they need, the struggle will continue.

    Some people might think that students are being selfish and ungrateful when they protest, but those of us who have been through the same struggles can relate to their frustrations.

    - As told to Lizeka Maduna