WITS opens its doors to student funding initiative

By Danielle van Wyk

The University of Witwatersrand’s (WITS) Alumni has launched the South African Student Solidarity Foundation for Education (SASSFE) following the ongoing student protests over the last few months, in light of the issues surrounding the lack of student funding nationally.

“SASSFE will be providing university alumni with a platform and opportunity to take on an active and voluntary role in supporting students in need and aims to create a dependable and sustainable support platform for alumni, the private sector and any other members of society, to make small but regular donations to a SASSFE Fund, which will make higher education accessible to all students, irrespective of class,” said the foundation.  

The Foundation is comprised of members of the Forum of the former Student Representative Council (SRC) and Black Student Society (BSS) Presidents at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

“The doors of learning and culture in South Africa are still not open to all. Access to tertiary education continues to depend not so much on students’ academic abilities, but on their class position. Even where poor students are admitted to universities and some of their fees paid, their experience at tertiary education institutions is often undignified and leads to low levels of success. Many often go hungry, or have problems securing the accommodation, text books and money needed to be academically successful.

“This cannot be allowed to continue in good conscience,” stated Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, chairperson of SASSFE’s Board of Trustees.

The initial Board of Trustees will lead and provide oversight for all the prescribed activities. This Board consists of seasoned professionals like Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, retired Constitutional Court Judge, Richard Goldstone and the Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Judge Azhar Cachalia, to name a few. The initial management board consists of the following: Tiego Moseneke, Linda Vilakazi, Moss Mashishi, Terry Tselane, Firoz Cachalia, Kenneth Creamer, Themba Maseko and Tebogo Thothela.

“Many students, including those that receive NSFAS support and the so called ‘missing middle’, continue to suffer the indignity of hunger and homelessness on our campuses. We must tackle this problem bottom-up until all deserving students can study in dignity,” highlighted Linda Vilakazi, a co-founder of SASSFE and, in 1992/3, Wits’ first black female SRC president.
The foundation, which plans to eventually expand to a national level, has set its first chapter up at the WITS University.

“Wits University has provided the Wits Chapter of SASSFE with its administrative backbone. The way the structure works is that all funds collected by the Wits Chapter will be used to assist Wits students.  It is envisaged, at least initially, that as SASSFE Chapters are established at other tertiary education institutions they will work to assist students at their own institutions,” explained SASSFE. 

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