Siboniso*, a 21-year old from Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal, fears he might never receive a certificate for a National Diploma he completed at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). He is one of hundreds of graduates who instead of receiving confirmation of their qualifications, were handed statements with amount they respectively owe the institution.
I am a National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiary, and did not receive my qualification because the state study scheme did not settle my fees from as far back as 2013.
I studied Office Management and Technology and initially owed the university R66 000. However at the beginning of this year I registered for a Btech before de-registering a few weeks later for which I was charged just over R10 000 bringing my total debt to R77 577, 22. I didn’t even attend a single class, but here I am.
It was in October 2013 that my world came crashing down, when I discovered that my fees were not paid. I immediately made my way to the financial aid offices at the Durban campus and was told that my name was on the waiting list.
In early January the following year I was then told that the system had changed and I would need to reapply which I did. At the end of the next month I had still received no response and eventually stopped attending lectures. At some point in May, I saw an update on my student portal account and went to see the financial aid officers who said my application for funding was successful.
I then registered and started attending classes again, relieved to not have missed any tests and exams. Upon trying to get my Loan Agreement Form (LAF) signed though, I was told that there was a shortage of NSFAS funds, leading me to accumulating debt for both 2013 and 2014.
Apart from my siblings and me, my parents are also raising two of our cousins, making us a household of eight. My father is the only person employed and earns less than R100 000 per year, which is precisely what led me to applying for the state scheme, but also means my family is unable to help me pay off the debt.
In just over two months, I’ll be 22-years old. I fear that I might end up being nothing because I’m missing out on jobs. All potential employers I approached have been clear that they want confirmation of my qualification. Not only do I feel doomed into a life of unemployment, but it also means I can’t help support my family and we were all so excited thinking a qualification would help bring change to our family.
Earlier this year, we were told that our names were on a list which was sent to the Department of Higher Education and Training, but to date we haven’t heard a thing from them.
On Tuesday the 19th July, other affected students and I attended a meeting at which three NSFAS representatives were present. In two weeks we will hear back from them and at this point, that’s the only hope we have. I don’t know what I’ll do if this isn’t resolved, I thought I had been through the worst during my studies but this has just completely killed my spirit.
*Full name not used to protect his identity
*As told to Koketso Moeti, edited for brevity and clarity.
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