Beyond FMF: The first in their families to go to university

South Africa’s higher education sector has been rocked over the last two years as the Fees Must Fall protests at universities, colleges and technikons have exposed and emphasised the financial struggles of aspiring graduates. But as the political drama between the state, students and university management has entered the fray, attention has been diverted from the core matter at hand – the narrative of everyday people struggling for access to education and the systemic exclusion this speaks of.
Through this six-part series The Daily Vox hopes to reprioritise these voices.
The Daily Vox interviewed people from across the country who are struggling for higher education funding, some of whom will be the first people in their families to get university degrees.


Babalwa is studying Public Relations at the Durban University of Technology but has been rejected by NSFAS twice. She lives with her grandmother and four cousins in KZN and the family survives on a pension grant of R1, 500 a month. Though she matriculated in 2013 she was forced to take a gap year because she lacked funds to study. She still owes her previous year’s fees of R34, 560 and hasn’t received results.


Keabecwe lives with her mother who is unemployed and sometimes works unstable part-time jobs. She’s in her third year of a four-year degree and she doesn’t know if she’ll finish. She is the first in her family to study and hopes to find funding to pay R38, 590 in fees.


Philasande is studying counselling psychology at UNISA because he really wants to help people, but his family doesn’t earn enough to pay for the fees of R14, 550. He will be the first in his family with a degree, and hopes to uplift his family situation. His mother is a single parent who supports the entire family on her salary. He hopes NSFAS responds so that he gets to finish his degree.

READ ALSO: All you need to know about NSFAS for 2017


Reporting by Mohammed Jameel Abdulla and Mishka Wazar
If you have a story to share about NSFAS or student funding, please get in touch with us.