Delayed bursary payments leave education students hungry

HARD TIMES: Education students on the Funza Lushaka bursary have been struggling to make ends meet this past semester. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

HARD TIMES: Education students on the Funza Lushaka bursary have been struggling to make ends meet this past semester. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Education students on the Funza Lushaka bursary had to make do with an allowance of R7000 for the past semester, because of delays in the process to discharge funds.

As a result, some students have been going hungry.

Thando Sibiya, 2nd year BEd said, “It’s bad, I don’t have any food.  I’ve become a nuisance to people, it’s really bad.  I don’t know what I’m going to eat.  How do they expect you to live?  How am I supposed to write exams?”

Students told Wits Vuvuzela that the problem was not that there was no money; it was that the payments were untimely.  Unlike the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Funza Lushaka monies do not come through monthly.

Delayed payments

Bursary officer at Education Campus, Mfundo Mbatha said payments were delayed because Funza Lushaka funds were not ready at the beginning of the year. “Funza Lushaka is a government initiative.  We have to wait for monies to be moved from National Treasury to Financial Aid,” she said.  Student allowances given at the beginning of the year were borrowed from Financial Aid because the government financial year only starts in March.

Mbatha said students received R5000 at the beginning of the year for their books and they were notified by email and posters were put up to warn them “to spend the money mindfully.”  Later this year, students were given R2000 for Teaching Experience, where students go out to schools for practical training, under the supervision of a qualified teacher.

Sibiya said he spent the R2000 on transport costs for the Teaching Experience and to get formal clothing.  “Coming back here is like coming back to poverty.”

Mbatha said they tried to pay students monthly in the past but it did not work because Funza Lushaka is not like NSFAS.  “Funza Lushaka has been operating this way for years,” she said.  Every year at the end of June or July, students receive the first lump sum and a second one in September.

Overspending

Mbatha said more problems come when students spend more than the allocated bursary amount of R75000.  “Students are to use money at their own discretion,” she said.  When students spend more than the allocated bursary amount, at the end of the year they end up owing up to R10000.

In response to allegations that students were not given warnings in advance, Mbatha said, “We put up posters and they [students] don’t even bother to read them.”

Nonhlanhla Moholane, 3rd year BEd said, “We were warned well in advance to sort ourselves out, but not everyone has the means to sustain themselves from January to July.”

Coming back here is like coming back to poverty.

Ayshah Essop, 1st year BEd said she was awarded the Funza Lushaka bursary but because payments were late she decided to accept  a bursary from  the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF) instead.  “I took the SANZAF fund because Funza [Lushaka] pays late, they only pay when the first semester is over.”

Sihle Nsibande, 2nd year BEd said, “I was on Funza Lushaka last year.  Previous people who were on Funza [Lushaka] told me you first get R5000.  Then after two or three months you get R18000.”  The remaining monies are paid out over a number of months, according to Nsibande.

“Coming back here is like coming back to poverty.”

The delayed payments were not a problem for Nsibande because he lives at home and can depend on his parents.

“I was expecting it, but it’s different for people in different circumstances.  I’m at home, I’m provided for.  Other people live at res.  Maybe if I was at res I would also be complaining because I’d have to take care of myself.”  He also said that new students on the bursary do not know how processes work.

After the #BringBackOurFunza campaign on the Wits Education School Council Facebook page and with much negotiation by the bursary officer, Chairperson of the ESC, Lebang Nong said it was decided students would get a lump sum payment on June 30.

Lecturer Bheki Zungu, who is involved with student affairs in conjunction with the Transformation Office has been collecting food donations and distributing them among needy students.

This article was featured in the Wits Vuvuzela

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