Tweeps come to the rescue of desperate student drowning in debt

Tweeps come to the rescue of desperate student drowning in debt

- Annet had just a few days to settle her student debt so she turned to Twitter for help

- All she asked for was R68 from 500 people so that she could graduate in time

- She managed to raise some funds, but unfortunately not all

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Friday is the dead line for Annet Matebwe. It is a race against time for her to raise R34 000 to clear her university debt. Payment has to be made before she is able to graduate with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of KwaZulu- Natal.

In desperation, Matebwe has turned to social media to plea for help to settle her outstanding fees.

“I was inspired by a trend on Twitter where a girl managed to get crowdfunding for a visa to go to the UK,” she said, adding that she thought good Samaritans would help her settle her fees.

Matebwe’s mother has been able to raise and pay more than R120 000 towards her education.

The overall historic student debt on the books of the universities stands at R7 billion. This is according to Chief Executive of Universities South Africa, Ahmed Bawa.

“However, all students with National Student Financial Aid Scheme grants in 2016 and/or 2017 will have their historic debt taken care of by the department of higher education and training,” he said.

For the 2018 graduation season, about 630 students still owe R14.5 million in outstanding fees. This is an average of R11 500 per student. This was reported by Cherrel Africa, the University of the Western Cape’s interim spokesperson.

Students with outstanding fees were able to graduate “symbolically” and were invited to attend the ceremony. They receive a letter of completion but not their certificates. The university says the letter will serve them in applying for employment which will enable them to start paying off their debts. Should they need to apply for bursaries to study further, the letter of completion will be suffice to make applications.

Not been able to receive her certificate to take home, Matebwe said she hadn’t been looking forward to walking on stage to receive her “symbolical” graduation.

Taking to Twitter earlier this month, she sought assistance to clear her university debt.

She wrote: “Hello Twitter, I need your help. If 500 people could donate R68, I could graduate and get my degree’s complete certificate (LLB) on the 20th of April at UKZN. This would mean the world to me. Please RT. I promise I am worth investing in.”

In order for people not to think she was trying to defraud the public, she posted her university’s invoice reflecting the outstanding amounts. The university’s bank details were given and her student number for a reference. Should anyone open their hearts and contribute, the monies would go directly into the university’s account. Remarkable, by late Saturday she had raised R12 838.

Her particulars were confirmed by City Press after they contacted the university to verify details.

The support this student lawyer received was overwhelming. All donations came from complete strangers.

Matebwe was overjoyed with at least two Twitter users donating R1 000 each and another contributing R500.

“Now it’s no longer my graduation; it’s our graduation. A lot of lawyers have been supportive, which I find inspirational”.

Matebwe wants to make a difference in our country and in Africa. Instead of working for corporate law firms, she will be sign on with non-governmental and international organisations.

After receiving a German scholarship, she is already studying towards a Master of Laws (LLM) degree at the University of the Western Cape.

Spokesperson for Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), Willa de Ruyter, said at least 7 733 student still owed the university approximately R123 million.

Those with outstanding fees were allowed to attend their graduation ceremony at TUT.

“In the process, they receive an acknowledgement letter from the university indicating that they have successfully completed their studies,” De Ruyter said.

Lauren Kansley, Cape Peninsula University of Technology spokesperson, said they would confer qualifications on 2 335 graduates next week. This will include those still owing monies to institution.

Qualifications are not withheld on the basis of owed fees.

Students from abroad owing money will not receive their qualifications. The institution does not have the resources to trace them should they leave the country.

All qualifying students from the University of Johannesburg were allowed to graduate irrespective of outstand fees. Herman Esterhuizen, spokesperson for the university said the 350 graduates owing the university more than R1 000 would get their physical certificate after settling the outstanding fees.

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For those qualifying students with outstanding fees attending Wits University, can request an official letter from the university confirming their completion of their academic programme.

Buhle Zuma, Wits spokesperson, said: “Students will, however, need to sign an acknowledgment of debt form in order to acquire this letter. Some companies have offered to pay for prospective employees.”

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