JOHANNESBURG – A group of graduates has taken to the streets to raise money to assist children from poor backgrounds to access tertiary learning in the country.
Armed with a graduation gown and an empty container, community activist John Molepo is can be seen at intersections begging for donations. The man from Soshanguve and his friends have become a regular sight at intersections as they try to source funds for people who want to study further but are restricted by a lack of funds.
“We have noticed that we have kids out there who are very disadvantaged and because of lack of funds, they can’t access universities. We saw it as a need to assist them and also help them get tuition fees coupled with accommodation. We are now trying to raise money for their registration fees for next year,” he said.
Molepo said the #ThusaNgwanaGeno campaign has already had some success and they want to build on that. The project has been able to assist seven students in 2017 with registration and accommodation fees and plans are afoot to drastically increase the numbers in 2018.
He said they have joined forces with institutions of higher learning to identify needy students and they step in to assist where they can.
“We are hoping that in 2018 we will be able to assist 50 students. The process is simple; we work closely with universities to also assist in identifying the disadvantaged kids out there. Students can also apply directly to us for funding but they have to be accepted at university or college. They can go to our website and complete a form and the committee will approve those that qualify,” said Molepo.
Access to higher education has been a topical issue in the country for many years with students calling for free decolonised tertiary education. The students intensified their fight in 2015 when they took to the streets throughout the country and marched under the banner of #FeesMustFall.
Their fight resulted in President Jacob Zuma establishing the Heher Commission to look the feasibility of free education in the country. The report, however, found that it was not feasible and suggested that only TVET Colleges be free and new funding models be developed for university students. The report said the most workable solution would be loans that would only need to be paid back when the graduates met a certain salary threshold when they start working. That suggestion was however frowned upon by many sectors of society.
With that in mind, Molepo and a group of graduates have decided to grab the bull by the horn and be agents of change. He said they are using different methods to raise funds to be able to assist the needy students. The group has appealed to members of society to join their campaign to send more people to university.
“Our main source of revenue is donations and graduates also make a contribution. We stand at intersections asking for money and we are also appealing to the general public to assist if they have financial muscle. We all need to work together to change the lives of our brothers and sisters out there,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries of the initiative, Pheto Matswe has appealed to society at large to lend a helping hand. He said he was introduced to Molepo when he was on the brink of giving up after failing to raise the required funds to register at the university. Being hundreds of kilometres from home, Matswe had nowhere to turn to and saw his dreams being shuttered but through the intervention of #ThusaNgwanaGeno he is now studying and looking forward to a bright future once he graduates.
“The university told me I had three days to register. John and his colleagues assisted me with registration money and they also paid for my accommodation for the entire year. What they are doing is very noble, this a necessary need in our society. I hope more people will get involved to assist the course to ensure more children get to go to university,” he said.