Throughout January, Mcebo Dlamini’s phone didn’t stop beeping as emails and WhatsApp messages came flooding in.
They came from desperate current and prospective Wits University students who didn’t have the money to pay their registration fees. One woman even confided that she felt suicidal.
Dlamini (29) is the president of Wits’ student representative council (SRC) and was back on campus early, precisely because so many students needed the council’s help.
The SRC has been widely praised for coming up with the #1Million1Month campaign, which aims to raise enough money to at least help students register.
But if you thought it was all a carefully crafted marketing campaign, thought up over endless cups of coffee and in several meetings, you’re wrong.
In fact, it was a “heat of the moment” decision, Dlamini says.
“For me, it was like I had just lit the match and sparked a fire. The situation on the ground required us to react, to think out of the box there and then?…?most people took it and ran with it.”
On January 10, Wits delayed the release of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds to some students. Even when this battle was resolved and funding was released, 2?788 students were left with no money to pay their R9?340 registration fees.
“That’s where the battle really began,”
With the help of Daya Veerasamy, Wits’ head of financial aid, Dlamini started to
think about how those 2?788 students could be helped.
The campaign kicked off on February 8 at the beginning of Wits’ Orientation Week. It involved asking students to pledge R100 towards registration fees.
By the time #1Million1Month was formally launched on February 20, Wits student newspaper Vuvuzela reported, R300?000 had been promised in “pledges, commitments and contributions from NGOs, alumni and members of the Wits community”.
Another R480?000 had been raised through corporations and donors, Vuvuzela reported. It boasts Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Advocate George Bizos among its ambassadors.
Dlamini says they have now reached the R2?million mark – as well as a snag. “We proposed to the university that they register the students for free this year and that we invest the R2?million with the help of the university to gain dividends. In a few months, R2?million will gain interest, which will help pay for the students.”
Attempts to get comment from Wits University were not successful at the time of going to press. But Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib told Vuvuzela this week he hoped the campaign raised R1?million to R2?million more.
“I will not lie to you?…?I will [otherwise] not have enough money to fund all the students,” Habib told the newspaper.
In the meantime, Dlamini’s phone keeps on beeping.