Students’ long walk to funding

By Drum Digital
15 December 2016

Fifteen University of the Witwatersrand students are taking matters into their own hands to address the funding crisis, and it doesn’t involve throwing stones at the police or committing arson.

Inspired by President Nelson Mandela’s biography, they participants of Feet4Fees have embarked on their own long walk to freedom to raise money for students who cannot afford their tertiary education.

The students have walked 760 km from Wits in Johannesburg on their way to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. They have successfully raised R7 million thus far.

Wits University students in Steynsburg during their long walk to NMMU, Eastern Cape

Ruben Oosthuizen (22) is the brains behind the initiative. He says the idea came to him in September, when he was grappling with why so many students had to drop out of university because they did not have money to complete their studies.

A third-year student, Ruben will be doing his honours in psychology at Wits next year and says he had to go door-to-door seeking funding from businesses and individuals to raise money for the walk.

“We partnered with StudyTrust, which is a bursary administration organisation which also fund students at wits and all over the country. We also approached corporates and individuals,” he says.

“Most students who are participating in the walk are on bursaries. We didn’t want the project to be a mass expense for them, so we raised money for food, accommodation, shoes to walk, water, and anything we need for medical emergencies.”

The walk started on 1 December and Ruben says they will be done Monday 19 December. The students have passed through places including Vereeniging and Bloemfontein and as of today, 15 December, they are in Cradock in the Eastern Cape.

Feet4Fees students leaving Bloemfontein.

“There’s nothing easy about being on the road for 20 days. There’s aches and pains, blisters and we’ve made trips to the pharmacy,” he says.

The heatwave South Africa is currently experiencing is also an obstacle, and they have encountered temperatures of up to 47 degrees.

Participant Fungile Msibi (23) says most of the team is fit. Some are gym fanatics and others play sports.

“Before we started walking we spent two months training. Every week we did 5 km to 20 km walks. One of our trips was from Braamfontein to Cresta in Johannesburt,” she says. “We also had a personal trainer who gave us an exercise plan so we do stretch exercises during the walk.”

Feet4Fees students at Garief Dam boardering the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces

Fungile says she decided to embark on the walk because she sympathises with the students who participated in the #FeesMustFall protest.

“I know what’s it’s like to be stressed out about funding, accommodation, toiletries and daily expenses. I’ve seen my friends drop out of university because they don’t have funding,” she adds.

She pleads with South Africans to form a unified force in the call for free education, saying Government will only take them seriously when there is strength in numbers.

For more information on Feet4Fees click here 

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