For many returning students at different universities across the country, the month of March is probably one of the hardest months of the year. This is not because it is an academically challenging month (frankly, every month is an academically challenging one if you’re a student), but it’s because it is a month when a lot of our academic futures are decided by universities. It is a month in which a lot of us get to know if we will be able to take part in the activities of the coming academic year, and for many of us, we eventually end up not being able to.
In the first two weeks of the month, universities start sending their students messages about the outstanding fees they have from the previous year. Most of those messages end with the universities saying that if those students are unable to pay those fees, they will not be able to continue with the current academic year, and this often ends up being the reality.
This underlying threat of financial exclusion is one that many students are currently facing throughout the country, but it is hardly spoken about when discussions about fees are had. It is a cruel reality because in the beginning of the year, universities allow the students to register on a provisional basis, giving them hope of taking part in the upcoming academic year, only to later take it away from them later on. It is an inhumane process that has been allowed to happen for too long now.
For instance, we are only a few days into the month of March 2018, but I have already seen more than five of my close friends go back home because they weren’t able to pay the university the money they owed from the previous year. A few of them were able to find other things to do for the year, but many of them have no other choice but to go back to the townships from which they come and spend the year there doing nothing.
This is ironic because this year began with the wonderful news that students from across the country will be able to get free education. Many of us were excited after hearing this news; it meant that the hard work that had been put into the fight for free education finally paid off, and people would get what they had been fighting for for so long. But a few weeks later, in February, many of us learned that this free education that caused so much happiness came with conditions that would exclude students who had outstanding fees, or did not do well academically the previous year – mainly because of the financial difficulties many of them faced the previous year.
This news was disheartening because, while some of us were celebrating the announcement of free education, many were left with questions about whether or not this free education would also include them. It unfortunately turned out that it wouldn’t, and by the looks of things, it seems like it won’t be including them any time soon.
This month is indeed a very difficult month for many students. It is a month when some of their dreams will be snatched out of their hands because of something they have no control over: money. A lot of them will spend it saying goodbye to the friends they made over the years, not knowing if they will ever get to see them again, and going back to the same townships they have been working so hard to get out of. March is, by far, one of the toughest months of the year for many students, and many of them pray to get through it more than they do to get through the exam season. Let us just hope that their prayers are answered, and that they come out of it still students.
Tell us: How has March been for you?