Last Friday, Lindelani Myeza – a first year Durban University of Technology Management Sciences student – jumped to his death after allegedly receiving an SMS notifying him of his unsuccessful application for NSFAS. The financial aid scheme has since claimed Myeza had been approved for funding. There are many other students at the university with NSFAS complaints. QINISO MBILI spoke to a few of the many students who still face an uncertain academic future just one month before the end of the first term.
Menzi Majola, 22, (prospective) 3rd year Analytical Chemistry, Msinga
Last year I was on NSFAS. I passed with a 75% average which is more than what I need to qualify for NSFAS. However my application for 2016 was unsuccessful and insufficient funds were cited as the reason. My father is unemployed and my mother works as a cleaner at a nearby lodge back home. I have been unblocked to register for tuition but I still don’t have a place to stay because I am blocked from registering for residence. This has made my life very hard. For the past week I have been sleeping on the underground classes on campus. I bathe at the sports centre showers and do not iron my clothes before coming to campus. I have appealed the NSFAS result and am now waiting in hope of a better one. I am afraid that if my application fails again, I will have to go back home as I do not have any relatives around and cannot afford to rent a flat.
Lwazilwenkosi Nqoko, 23,(prospective) 3rd year Food Technology, Margate
My application was unsuccessful and I have since appealed and I’m now waiting for the results. In 2014 NSFAS paid some of my debt but left R11, 300. In 2015 I had to drop out of school because the university wanted me to pay R11, 300 before I could be allowed to register. I couldn’t afford this, I do not know my father and my mother passed away in 2007. I came back this year to try my luck and have now been unblocked to register for tuition. My debt was passed on to Credit Works, a debt management company. When they kept calling me asking me to make a payment with them last year, it became clear to me that NSFAS would not be paying my debt. I have stopped worrying myself about that and will now focus on studying. My latest issue now is that I do not have a place to stay, I live illegally on one of the residences and it is only a matter of time before I get caught and thrown out. I hope by that time my NSFAS application will be sorted out.
Vuyolwethu Daca*, 19, 2nd year, Interior Design, Eastern Cape
I am owing R29, 000 from last year, I received an SMS last year saying I was successful but NSFAS only paid R7, 500 and that was all. I do not understand what this means. I have been unblocked for both tuition and residence but my worry is that what is going to happen to the R29, 000 debt. I have even begun suspecting that there is some kind of fraud and corruption going on in this institution. When I enquire about my account from the financial aid offices, they always tell me to wait and that NSFAS is still going to pay me but when I call the NSFAS call centre in Cape Town, they tell me that they paid everything for last year. They even tell me how much money was paid on which day and this leaves me very confused and suspicious.
Deon Brown, 24, 1st year, Fine Arts, Pietermaritzburg
I am owing R32, 000 from 2014. When I was accepted into DUT for the first time in 2014, I used my savings to pay for my registration fee. I then applied for NSFAS when I was already registered, I was rejected six times throughout the year and NSFAS claimed insufficient funds. I then decided to dropout as DUT was requesting the R32, 000 upfront before I could register. I have been unblocked to register this year and I have registered but my debt has also more than doubled after my registration. I have applied for NSFAS again in the hope that what happened before doesn’t happen again. My mother is unemployed and still has to take care of my two young sisters.
Masibonge Sibiya, 22, (prospective)BTech Town Planning, eShowe
I no longer qualify for NSFAS as I am now doing my BTech but my problem is that NSFAS refuses to pay for my 2015 debt. They claim that I never signed my loan agreement form, therefore cannot pay. Now DUT has ordered me to pay my debt before I can continue to BTech. This is a real problem for me because I need to advance to BTech, I have even found a company to sponsor me it will only pay for this year. It is very important for me to continue studying because it is very hard to find a job in town planning when you only have a diploma.
Bongani Gavu, 25, (prospective)3rd year, Management Science, Mthwalume
When last year began, I applied for NSFAS and had to wait for a response. I ended up waiting for the whole year and when I enquired about this at the end of the year, they told me I hadn’t been approved and I was ordered to pay the R42, 000 if I planned on continuing to 3rd year. I have reapplied for NSFAS, meanwhile I come to the financial aid offices every weekday and tolerate the queues in order to try and resolve last year’s issue. I had the same problem after I’d completed my first year in 2013. I then dropped out and did petty jobs for the whole year while looking for a job that I could actually make a living off and feed my mother and two siblings. This turned out to be even worse of a hurdle; there are no jobs out there. This encouraged me to try even harder to get back to school in 2014 as education is clearly the only way these days. I will be very discouraged if I fail to resolve this R42 000 issue.
*not her real name.
Editor’s note: The headline of this piece was changed from, “Meet the victims of DUT’s ‘faulty’ financial aid system” on Friday 19 February at 12:50 PM, after the Durban University of Technology rightly pointed out that DUT does not have a financial aid system independent of NSFAS.