The EFFSC has “confused and misled” UJ students by associating the Gift of the Givers provision of meals for students with NSFAS food allowances, said the Central SRC Treasurer General (TG) during the recent UJ parliamentary sitting at APK.
“We have the meal assistant programme, which I think the EFFSC has misled students, number one; number two, the EFFSC has confused the two . . . Gift of the Givers (GoG) meals and NSFAS food allowance,” the Central SRC’s TG, Takalani Mutsharini, said to the members of the UJ student Parliament, while delivering the 2017/18 Financial Report.
“GOG meals is a programme that the SRC, a couple of years ago, advocated for in order for students to have meals. GoG caters for any student who does not have food. They go there to have two meals a day and on holidays one meal a day. That is not an initiative of NSFAS but that of the SRC and the University,” the TG explained to the parliamentary delegates.
The GOG initiative, according to the Central SRC Financial Report, will cater for 12,000+ students for the 2018 academic year, which the Institution has budgeted R 14 million. Apart from the GoG initiative, students will further be handed food packages, an initiative that has already begun.
All in all, both the President and TG reports addressed several financially inclined issues affecting students at UJ and some strategies which might potentially improve their wellbeing. Above all, several challenges and triumphs of the Central SRC (CSRC) were also addressed.
It was noted that, some of the challenges faced by the SRC included dealing with the “highly incompetent” National Student Fund Aid Scheme (NSFAS). More so, the Scheme’s ineffective system and its retarded responses to late applications.
The situation worsened as students, who did not receive their acceptance letters from NSFAS, could not be registered at the beginning of the year. None the less, it was highlighted that the SRC’s will ensure that every student funded by NSFAS at UJ will be entitled to books and food allowances.
“The SASCO-led SRC, when it came into office, was given a mandate to ensure that our students are given meal allowances,” the TG addressed delegates of the Parliament. “We took the fight to management to the point where our President had to go to the NSFAS office in Cape Town.”
However, a meal allowance, which in the past was only given to students in their final year of study, will be provided to each student from their first year of study until the completion of their studies.
With regards to some CSRC achievements, the TG pointed out that the funding Scheme approved more students in 2018, from 19,000 students in 2017 to 21,000 in 2018.
He also reminded the delegates of what he conceptualised as an “organisational achievement” of the #FeesMustFall movement which has resulted to approved first-year students to study at no cost.
According to the Mutsharini, the situation was bettered for these students since those who met the criteria to qualify as NSFAS beneficiaries were helped by member of the SRC to registered in January. On the other hand, students with debt of the 2017 academic year were successfully funded.
An insufficient number of accredited accommodations, as a challenge, was considered during the parliamentary sitting. “The University has not accredited enough accommodations,” the Treasurer said when speaking about this challenge.
Also, some of the off-campus accommodation prices are not consistent with the services provided. Some places boast rocketing prices while there is no WiFi and inclusive electricity, resulting to some students purchasing their own electricity.
“I think as the SRC, as our programme of action, we are going to take the fight to the off-campus accredited accommodations . . . to ensure that all students are charged the same amount,” added Mutsharini.
The SRC Trust Fund forms some basis of funding for students at UJ. But as the primary stakeholder of this funding scheme, alongside with UJ Finance and Student Affairs, the SRC does not have the main administration powers, mentioned the TG.
As such, although the Trust implies the SRC as a main stakeholder, it holds less power when it comes to decision making.
As a result, “Management can take a decision on its own about students’ applications, while the SRC cannot take a decision on its own,” said Mutsharini.
“Yet it is named the SRC Trust Fund – the legality of it is the problem. So, I am saying that the Parliament needs to assist for us to have a Trust Fund Policy or an amendment to the Constitution so that we ensure that the power of the Trust is given back to the SRC,” he added.
Amongst other issues was the consideration of a zero percent AOD fee to be paid by students who have been accepted by the Trust; in support of this view, the TG said, “for the very fact that you apply for the R3870.00 for registration means that you cannot afford R20 thousand or R10 thousand for tuition fees.”
Nevertheless, the corruption of some SRC members in “selling” the Trust Fund for personal gains was also recognised as a challenge for the Trust to meet its end goal of aiding needy students who could not afford to pay the registration fees.
According to the President’s report, which was delivered the preceding day to the TG’s report, potential trust fund students were seen as clients and blindly misled in bogus corruption schemes.
Despite everything, Mutsharini maintained that the R5 millions worth of budget allocation for the Trust fund is inadequate to meet the academic and residential registration fee demands of all the 13 000 applicants who applied in 2018. From that statistic, only 5 000 were funded.
He noted, however, that the online system to apply for the Fund made it convenient for several students who could not make it to campus to submit the required documents for their applications.
Mutsharini said, “The application of the Trust Fund was changed to online to allow students to apply in their own convenience.”
Above all, he said that the outstanding fees of all the students approved in 2017 were paid.
The University’s hired Mega Bus buses are not enough, although the management of the Institution claims to have fifteen buses for all four campuses, said the TG.
Mutsharini also tabled the request for the SRC to be scheduling these buses, taking into account the safety of students who commute late at night due to, among other reasons, unbearable, long queues.
The Finance Committee will provide food packages, sanitary towel and toiletries to respective students. It will additionally assist the SRC in providing funding for accommodation, tuition, historical debts, books and gadgets such as laptops when applicable.
The committee has another task, which involves that of monitoring “all of the financial activities of the SRC structures to ensure efficiency and accountability,” said in the report the TG read.
He further stressed on the societies’ situation of being forced to use certain shops in the Student Centres, worrying about the monopoly that this practice may create.
More concepts were coined during the TG’s presentation of the Financial Report, which included the fundraising initiative of “R10 Fridays” to raise funds for student needs as staff and students will be provided with an opportunity to donate a minimum of R10 every Friday for this cause.
The funds acquired from the fundraising will then be allocated to various sectors of student life such as the House Committees budget, which according to the TG’s report has insufficient funds.
The selling of art work to various UJ stakeholders is another epitome of the financial ideas suggested in the report.
“The SRC has met with at least one artist who will be drawing. The person has offered us his art work for free which is worth thousands of Rands. The money made will be contributed to a fund that we’re going to start . . . he has also given us the right to make the required number of copies,” said the TG.
Nonetheless, shops at the University’s Student Centre were also regarded as potential sponsors for students in the Institution.
“We’ve to engage them to provide us with at least something. The proposal is that one must at least adopt one student,” said the TG.
To improve the changes of a UJ graduate to obtain employment, the TG proposed the implementation of graduate programmes that will equip graduates with the necessary skills for the workplace, which includes soft skills such as networking.
He further proposed that student assistant jobs at the Institution be granted to SRC Trust Fund beneficiaries, whom, he said, needed the income from such form of employment to sustain themselves during the duration of their courses at the University.
RELATED STORY: Empower Young UJ Black Entrepreneurs In Our Varsity Economy
Student varsity economy was a matter of high value as the Treasurer tabled an approach of setting up more formal platforms for student entrepreneurs to run their businesses in the University’s campuses effectively.
These businesses include those found in the lucrative, second-hand textbook sector. He, moreover, stressed the need for students with services to render that are needed by the Institution to obtain procurements from the University.
Questions and comments
APB has the highest food prices, more expensive than APK, but these prices are set by the same companies operating on both campuses, said one of the delegates from APB who urged for the TG to look into the issue.
She made an example of “large chips” being more expensive at APB than at APK yet it is from the same food outlets.
The example was aired out due to several members, including the Treasurer, alluding that the Student Centre of each campus, especially those at Auckland Park, have been “privatised to maximise profit”.
On the other hand, the TG’s report received some backlash from members of the UJ parliament.
One of the members described the report as a “manifesto audit”, while another referred to it as a “five-year plan”, not forgetting that it was also considered as a campaign.
Moreover, one delegate voiced out the fact that the report did not provide a list of all the transactions that took place.
However, on the matter of the strategies, a few commented on the lack of time frame/s that will pass for the strategies to be implemented.
More so, a complaint was raised that the Institution is not aiding students who seek for internships with relevant companies to approach.
The Student Centre was mentioned by several delegates who proposed that it should give back to students and some members of their families by offering students jobs and availing affordable renting space.
Moreover, an Anti-Corruption Committee was proposed by a delegate to oversee the financial activities of the student council. The proposals further included one of inserting WiFi in buses.
Lastly, the plight of international students was raised by one of the members. As such, what was significantly pointed out was the high fees that make it more difficult for certain black international students to register.
(Contact Gaby Ndongo: firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 72 524 5063)