CAPE TOWN - A student debt stokvel has enabled 102 South African graduates to pay off their existing academic debt.
The pilot phase of the Wesolve4x Student Debt Stokvel has been described as a resounding success, having raised R1.3 million, with its founders now calling on more people to contribute towards decreasing debt that oppresses many youth.
The initiative was established in November last year.
Founder and chief executive Tsietsi Ngobese said he was familiar with the struggle of not being able to pay tuition fees and had experienced the uprising of the Fees Must Fall movement while studying at the University of the Free State in 2015.
“I understand the pain and frustration of not knowing whether you are going to return to campus the following year. We are told education is the key to success, but now it has become a burden.”
Ngobese said he had witnessed the level of desperation students go through just to pay their fees, such as falling into prostitution, sugar daddies and even committing crime.
“I have seen it all, the damage it inflicts on future professionals, you lose passion in the process,” he said.
Students or graduates whose debt has been paid off successfully have to sign a five-year agreement that they will dedicate their time towards community service projects. These include tutoring maths or English classes, mentoring learners who are interested in the career path the graduate has studied, and using their skills to uplift their community.
Dino Kharivhe studied mechanical engineering at Wits University and said he owed the institution R31 900. He applied for government and other student funding, but his application was unsuccessful.
“Through the programme my debt was settled. I was able to graduate and obtain my certificate,” said Kharivhe.
Foster Makumbila of the University of Limpopo said he studied accounting science and had been R24 300 in student debt.
“They paid the whole amount and I am currently a part of the tutoring programme weekends.”
The initiative has also adopted 12 schools in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng provinces where graduates offer maths and English classes to learners from Grades 4 to 12 and their parents. Parents who participate in these classes pay R250. Proceeds of the fee go towards the graduate’s student debt and the other proceeds go to providing the parents with grocery hampers each month.
“The student debt stokvel is open to all students nationwide. If they need funding for this academic year or need assistance with their current debt, then they can apply from anywhere across South Africa,” said Ngobese.
For more information, visit www.wesolve4x.co.za.