BETWEEN THE CRACKS OF FREE EDUCATION AND MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE
The maternal ritual of self-sacrifice for the proverbial “key-to-success” was once again at the centre of WSU’s graduation ceremonies this week.
Three cleaning staff at the university’s campus celebrated their daughters’ graduation ceremonies against staggering financial odds – a narrative far too familiar at WSU and broader South Africa.
“My daughters had much difficulty furthering their studies because I did not have money. I managed with the help of NSFAS and loan sharks,” said a cleaning company’s on campus employee, Thembeka Maci.
Her daughters, Pamela and Siyamamkela are the first to graduate in the family with qualifications in Management and Human Resource, respectively.
“I’m very excited but I am worried that they will struggle finding employment because they have not received their certificates as a result of student debt,” added Maci.
However, according to WSU spokesperson, Yonela Tukwayo the university has stated that employers do accept academic transcripts as proof of completed qualifications.
The scenario doesn’t change much with another graduate’s proud mother, Nokuzola Mcwakumbana, who described the experience of putting her daughter through tertiary education as ‘touch and go”.
“The situation was touch and go. We had to tighten our belts and go to loan sharks at times,” she said.
Both mothers of graduates started working at the university campus in 1994 and 1991 respectively, before the current cleaning company took over the contract in 1998.
When the cleaning company was contracted by the university in 1998, employees were paid a pittance of R700 which has since increased to R3880 before deductions.
The university’s Butterworth Campus rector professor Victor Mtetwa expressed his pride and joy that his staff and local community see the value of education and transformation it can bring.
“Free education will allow a lot of academically deserving youth access to education where young people do not feel excluded based on their financial background,” Mtethwa added.
Thembeka’s daughters, Pamela and Siyamamkela said they were grateful for theirs mothers tenacity and commitment to their success.
By Sinawo Hermans