Today I am proud to present three pioneering new initiatives introduced by the DA Students Organisation-led SRC at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
The defining issue of student life for our generation has been gaining access to finance in order to further our education. This is so vividly illustrated by the often violent and emotionally charged protests about this issue that rock campuses across the country year after year. Unfortunately, little progress has been made on addressing this issue, with students and management locked in a perennial battle – until now.
When DASO NMMU, led by Yusuf Cassim, won the majority of seats on the university SRC a few months ago, it set about opening the doors of higher learning to all South Africans. We strongly believe that anyone with the talent and commitment to qualify for admission to university should be allowed to do so, regardless of their circumstances.
Today we are giving life to this vision at NMMU in what is a country-wide first. It demonstrates that where the Democratic Alliance is in government, whether it is a province, municipality or SRC, we deliver opportunities for all.
The details of DASO NMMU’s innovative student finance programmes are as follows:
1. NSFAS Debt Clearance Agreement
The DASO-led SRC have successfully negotiated with management to pay the full outstanding debt of all financially needy and academically deserving students with a debt of over R1 500 who are National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries or who hold a bursary for 2012 through the Financial Aid Office.
This is unprecedented for NMMU and is designed to address the problem of financially needy but academically deserving students being excluded and prevented from continuing their studies. Financially needy students are those deemed to have a zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as per the NSFAS criterion. All amounts of students’ debt will be covered, except those originating from unnecessary expenditure such as society membership fees, gym fees and library fines.
2. SRC Bailout Fund
The DASO-led SRC at NMMU have created an SRC Bailout Fund to the value of R600 000 which ensures that financially needy students with outstanding debts of under R1 500, who are therefore not liable for assistance under the Debt Clearance Agreement, will not be prevented from studying further. The fund is made up of R300 000 from the SRC budget and a further R300 000 contribution from university management, with the potential of additional sponsors also coming on board.
This fund will assist those financially needy and academically deserving students who have an outstanding debt to the institution but do not have NSFAS coverage. To access this fund, students falling into the above categories must submit an appeal letter detailing their outstanding debt, proof that they have applied late for NSFAS or have applied for the second semester, and a motivation with some form of evidence indicating how they would cover their registration fees for 2012.
3. NSFAS Meal Allowance
The DASO-led SRC has also negotiated a R1 000 increase in the NSFAS meal allocation for on-campus students, leading to a greater quality of life for those reliant on this NSFAS food grant for sustenance. Qualifying students will now receive R9 000 per anum for food, up from R8 000.
NMMU SRC President, Yusuf Cassim, would like to thank the management of NMMU, in particular Mr Khaya Matisa (Dean of Students) and Mr Wayne Muller (Deputy Director: Financial Aid), for working tirelessly with the SRC to see the successful implementation of these projects.