FIRST WOMAN TO CHAIR UNIZULU ECONOMICS SOCIETY SAYS STUDENTS SHOULD CHANGE THEIR LOAN MIND-SET
University of Zululand, Monday 28th March 2011…Unizulu’s traditionally male-dominated, 1000-strong Economics Society has a woman at its helm for the first time ever and she says her most urgent task is to change students’ mindsets with regard to government loans.
“Many students,” says diminutive third year B Comm (economics) student, Sindisiwe Ndlovu, “don’t even realize that when they obtain a ‘NSFAS’ it is a loan not a grant and that eventually they have to pay the money back.” (A NSFAS is a National Student Financial Aid Scheme loan available to needy students who are performing above average academically.)
Sindisiwe says she and her seven person executive (including three women) want to challenge the current loan-and-debt culture among students and help them to become pro-active in competing for the variety of bursaries available and even seeking new ones.
Available bursaries range from the national Funzwa Lushaka (education), social work and Jacob Zuma Foundation bursaries to the Unizulu merit awards and the prestigious Mandela Rhodes and Ruth First scholarships. They include opportunities to study overseas in, for example, the US, Europe and India, through the Fulbright, Erasmus Mundus and Indian Council for Cultural Relations scholarships.
Private companies also play their part through, for example, the Sugar Industry Trust Fund for Education (SITFE).
Sindisiwe and her team aim to encourage individual students to go out and find sponsorship for their studies, and be prepared to pay back by working for several years within the community or business that backed them. Some churches in northern KZN are already doing this, as are some of the newly activated traditional councils.
The first step in Sindisiwe’s plan is to hold a bursaries workshop to present students with the full array of opportunities available to them and provide relevant application forms: “We are collaborating with the Students in Free Enterprise society on this and hope to hold the workshop within the next week or so.”
In tandem with the push to seek out, apply for and even create new bursaries Sindisiwe aims to promote the idea of finding ad hoc term-time as well as holiday employment. “I work in a boutique during my holidays and I try to save a bit to help see me through the term,” she says. “When the university’s in session some students work as tutors or help out at major events like registration or graduation and earn some money that way.”
The other way to raise funds, says this 20-year-old first-born, is to set up small businesses on campus: “If you sell sweets and chips to other students you can make quite a bit of money.”
Sindisiwe started out studying accounting but changed to economics as soon as she discovered it as a subject: “I developed a passion for economics as soon as came across it. I didn’t know it existed when I was at school.”
Her main interest is in public finance and monetary control which she hopes to study at honours level before seeking work in the public finance sector.
“I think we should examine exactly why it is that, even though students are supposedly quite intelligent, we are sometimes slow to take the initiative to provide for ourselves,” says Sindisiwe.
Women make up sixty-seven per cent of students at Unizulu but this is not yet reflected in the governing structures of societies.
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