The Limpopo Department of Education has another scandal on its hands.
The department has told disgruntled students who are studying to become teachers as part of its bursary scheme, that it cannot pay the fees to the University of Limpopo.
The department, as part of its obligation, has to pay tuition, meals, textbooks and accommodation fees for 207 students who are departmental bursary scheme beneficiaries studying towards a Bachelor of Education Senior Phase and FET. It has failed to do so.
The Turfloop Campus students told the Saturday Star this week they had met the department’s administrator, Mzwandile Matthews, two weeks ago but he told them the department had no money.
He promised the department would devise a plan to ensure that their outstanding fees were paid.
“Matthews told us that the department didn’t have money and said he would make an arrangement with the provincial treasury to address our challenge urgently,” said the concerned students’ chairperson, Elijar Maswanganyi.
Maswanganyi added that Matthews had apologised to them for the communication breakdown between the department and students during students’ mass consultation with him (Matthews).
The education department is one of five departments that were placed under national administration, due to financial mismanagement, in December.
Students said the situation had severely affected their performance. They said at times they found it hard to concentrate in class as they did not know what would happen to them.
The students said the department had assured them that their fees would be paid during the June holidays, only to discover when the university re-opened that they (the department) hadn’t paid.
Although the students were hoping that the department would eventually pay their fees, they did not have a clear picture of how the national administration affected them.
“It is public knowledge that the Limpopo Provincial Government has collapsed, so we are just wondering how this crisis affects us because the department knew they had to pay for our studies,” said one of the students who wished to remain anonymous.
A third-year student, Donald Rabothata, 24, said the department always made payments late. “The department must make study fees a priority,” he said. Rabothata owes the university close to R45 000.
Filter Khosa, 20, a second-year student, said the challenge they were facing was very disturbing. Khosa, who owes more than R46 000, said he wished the department and the institution would address the matter urgently.
The students are supposed to receive R13 200 a year to cover costs but it is rumoured that the amount has been reduced to about R9 000.
Final-year student Elijar Maswanganyi, 27, says he borrows R20 from friends almost every day to enable him to do practicals.
“My situation is bad because no one is working at home so I must make a plan. If I don’t get money I will not be able to go for my practicals,” said Maswanganyi.
He added that the university had been paying for all their services including meals and accommodation until this semester.
Meanwhile during a Friends of the Youth League gathering on Monday, axed ANC Youth League president Julius Malema lambasted Matthews.
Malema said there were no textbooks, and students’ fees were still outstanding because of an administrator (Matthews).
The spokesman for the Limpopo department of education, Pat Kgomo, confirmed the department hadn’t paid students’ fees. Kgomo said they had engaged with the university for payment later this year. “Cash flow challenges hampered payments up to the third quarter,” added Kgomo.
Another student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had seen a letter from the department asking the university to allow the students to continue their studies and to provide services such as meals and accommodation.
University spokesman, Kgalema Mohuba, could not be reached for comment.