Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) celebrated the achievements of graduates and undergraduates enrolled as beneficiaries in their programme at an award ceremony recently.
ISFAP, which was established as an answer to the “Fees Must Fall” campaign, opened its doors to students who fall in “missing middle” category in 2016 by funding scarce skills degrees. The “missing middle” are those students who come from households earning more than R350 000 but less than R600 000 annually and are financially strained, but yet don’t qualify for government funding.
The programme headed up by ISFAP programme co-ordinator, Ms Sinegugu Khuzwayo, started in 2017 at UKZN with its first cohort of Health Sciences students. ‘We are proud of all of the Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students funded by ISFAP who have graduated and are currently doing their community service in various public hospitals nationally,’ said Khuzwayo.
Alumnus, Ms Londeka Ntombela, who is now a qualified occupational therapist serving her community service in Nkandla, said attaining her qualification would not have been possible without her ISFAP bursary. Ntombela, who was recognised for her student dedication during the programme, said: ‘I was part of the first cohort of students and in the beginning, it was very challenging but we were just appreciative of ISFAP’s helping hand. Throughout my years of study, I received immense support from qualified professionals, from the many structures of this bursary. I also got to make a lifelong friend through ISFAP and I’m very grateful to have started off my career without any student debt.’
Handing out awards, ISFAP Regional Manager, Mr Lindelani Ntuli remarked how lucky students were to be recipients of the bursary. Acknowledging UKZN as one of the top achieving institutions (academically) in the country, he said: ‘As funders, we are impressed by your positive academic results because our sustainability lies hugely on your results’.
Mr Siphesihle Mdlalose a fourth-year Medical student who received an award for excellent academic achievement said he was grateful to ISFAP for their generosity in funding his studies as a returning student who had completed his master’s previously. Mdlalose, who comes from a middle-class family where both of his parents are teachers, explained the hardship of attaining funding when you are classified as the “missing middle”. ‘When I applied for the ISFAP bursary, I was just looking for academic funding but ISFAP did more than I could have ever asked for: they provided me with a laptop, an allowance for prescribed books, a monthly stipend and accommodation.
‘Having everything taken care of has really helped and all I have to do is provide them with the bare minimum of academic results.’
Ms S’thembokuhle Maphanga, a third-year Pharmacy student who also achieved well academically, said ISFAP assisted her in the most pivotal time of her life as a first-year student manoeuvring the COVID-19 pandemic, university life and personal issues at home. She commented on ISFAP’s wrap around programme which includes financial assistance, academic support in the form of mentors and tutors, and mental health services through professional counselling. ‘I can now confidently say that I am stronger mentally and ready to tackle the world and its challenges. ISFAP, together with Ms Sinegugu Khuzwayo have made it so much easier for me to prioritise my academics by making sure that everything else is taken care of.
I hope to one day be able to give back to my community and change people’s lives, just as you have mine. Thank you ISFAP,’ she said.
Remarking on the values of ISFAP in embracing humanity and the efforts to plough back to the community, Khuzwayo highlighted the importance of not looking at the programme as just a transaction, but rather as a way to put forth the effort in supporting it in reaching new heights.
One such student, Mr Tsepho Chauke, a sixth-year Medical student commended ISFAP for enabling students to give back to the community through its community outreach programme. He said he was motivated to support upcoming students within the ISFAP programme by becoming a mentor and tutor. ‘I wanted to play a role in making it easier for other students to conquer because ultimately, we all want to graduate, give back to our communities and advance our families.’
Students were also treated to an introduction of a financial literacy programme that will include webinar trainings over the next six weeks covering topics such as the realities of “Black tax”, the importance of multiple streams of income, improving awareness of financial concepts and encouraging good financial behaviour, improving the ability to identify debt traps, and encouraging a culture of financial planning and saving.
Closing off the event, Ntuli encouraged students to attend the financial literacy programme as a victim of bad financial management himself. He commented on South Africa’s pool of high unemployment and urged students to find their purpose and passion in life in order for them to sustain themselves.
He thanked the students for attending and more over for attaining their great academic results. ‘Continue aiming to do well because good academic results mean more funding.’
Applications are now open to students looking for funding to study a scarce skills degree through ISFAP, to apply click here.
Words: Hlengiwe Khwela
Photograph: Albert Hirasen