More than 30 final year students whose hopes of finishing their academic journey were dashed by a lack of funds shared their excitement at being the recipients of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s (NMMU) #Trailblazing campaign funds.
Last year, NMMU vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz and at least 20 other trailblazers climbed Peru’s Machu Picchu to raise funds to help final year students finish their academic journey. More than R2.3-million was raised during the fundraising campaign that saw the trailblazing team spend four days navigating the mountain’s 43km Inca Trail.
A total of 34 final year and BTech students who were identified as needing funding to complete their interrupted studies were announced as recipients of the bursary funding at a function at the Chancellor’s Room, on NMMU’s South Campus today.
Addressing the gathering, Prof Derrick Swartz likened students’ academic journeys to climbing a mountain, where finishing the climb is not easy, but made bearable by the support of others.
He said the campaign particularly targeted final year and BTech students who had completed the bulk of their studies, about 75%, but could not go all the way because of funding constraints.
“There are thousands of students out there, in cities and towns, who have been unable to complete their degrees or dilpomas. The idea, therefore, was to give them what is known in Afrikaans as a hupstoot, a little push up the hill, to finish their journey,” he said.
“At the moment, the quantum of funding is not enough to support the growth in the system and means that there will inevitably be categories of students who do not fit into the requirements for the current funding available in the system.
“It is those students that we are targeting because it makes no sense that you have thousands of students outside the system, who have completed 75% of their studies but cannot get a job or create work – as they cannot access bank capital – because they do not have complete qualification certificates.
“So just as we were helped by previous generations in our time, we are assisting you so that you may one day help others too.”
Some of the recipients told how they had lost hope of completing their studies and were pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the NMMU Trust, which administers bursary funding, that they could continue with their studies.
BA student Lukhanyiso Magwevana took up odd jobs desperately trying to raise enough money to return to University after having to drop out after his second year.
“That was a difficult and dark time for our family. I came across a scripture that said ‘if you ignore the cries of the poor, how can your cry be heard?’ At first, it meant nothing to me as I was just reading the bible looking for some sort of hope. Then in December last year, I got a phone call to say I was a #trailblazing bursary recipient,” he said.
“So it seems to me that the spirit of God had been working, therefore, in you but mysteriously. I didn’t see it as you were working in the background. As a student, all I saw was the turmoil and all that was happening in the University around funds. The phone call gave me hope … so thank you Prof Swartz and your team. I now see the finish line that for a long time seemed quite a distance away.”
Third year Public Relations Management student Zintle Bobelo said it had always been her desire to complete her studies, but circumstances were not in her favour.
“My educational pursuits were brought to a standstill and I could not finish my third year. Four years later, I get a call from the University bringing forth this golden opportunity. Mine alone was to be hopeful for I knew of countless others waiting for this chance,” she said.
“This gathering comes just two days after the commemoration of Human Rights Day. And as we all know, one of our basic constitutional rights is one to education. The initiators of this campaign proved to have kept the legacy of our fallen heroes, who fought tirelessly for such rights to be recognised.”
Public Relations Management student Lwazikazi Petela thanked the University for affording her an opportunity to complete her studies.
“Words could never be enough to express the gratitude that I and my peers have for the opportunity that has been availed to us,” she said.
“This not only means that we can bear our own futures, but it means that we can plant seeds today so that our children and future generations can grow up under the shade that we wish we could have grown up under.”
Surplus funds from the campaign will be used to assist academically deserving final year ad BTech students, using the same criteria as the #trailblazing recipients, who have a few outstanding modules to complete their studies.
By NMMU CSL