Bursary disaster for disaster management students

TWENTY students who were selected by the Department of Military Veterans for a bursary at Stenden South Africa in disaster management are currently being compromised as the department has failed to pay any of the agreed tuition.

According to Stenden executive dean Wouter Hensens,  Stenden entered into discussions with the department in 2013 following an interest on their behalf in the institutions new disaster management programme that was launched that year.

Stenden was visited by different officials from the department where a proposal was drafted to enrol selected students who qualified in terms of academic compliance for degree studies.

A total of 22 students were enrolled between January and July 2015. Of these students, 20 of them were to be sponsored by the department, and another two by Stenden.

To date, the 20 students on the military veteran bursary education are in an academic limbo as no funds had been paid to Stenden.

The students who are halfway through a four year course were promised the bursary would cover all their costs including accommodation, books and tuition.

Hensens confirmed that the fees for these students have not been paid and that it has an effect on the institution.

Hensens did not want to disclose the total amount owed to Stenden by the Department of Military Veterans. It is also not clear if the department negotiated a special tariff for the students, but if costs are calculated according to Stenden’s 2017 tariff for tuition alone (excluding accommodation, books and meals); at R95 000 per student, per year, the department is estimated to owe Stenden a total of R3.8-million so far.

“The department has shown its commitment and responsibility to these students through different forms of communication. Therefore, Stenden allowed the students to commence their studies in good faith and followed up on a monthly basis since the beginning of the project and has been assured that this was taken care of,” said Hensens.

Despite their predicament, the bursary students have been doing well at their studies and Hensens felt it would be unfair to send them home.

Hensens said that the only alternative for Stenden at this point in time is for the students to acknowledge the debt until the fees are paid by the department. This will allow them to continue their studies without delay.

According to Hensens’ statement, Stenden was visited by a senior delegation of the Department of Military Veterans led my acting director general Max Ozinsky on February 18.

“Ozinsky and his team spent the full day with us and his efforts to come out were much appreciated by the students, their parents, and Stenden. Unfortunately, the discussions during the visit did not resolve the issue to the satisfaction of the students and Stenden. The discussions did however clarify the issues at hand which we believe can be resolved and we are working together with the affected students to resolve this,” said Hensens.

“We are proud to have these students study at Stenden South Africa and regret the challenges with payment as in the end both our institution and the students are affected by this. We remain committed to resolving the issue and will continue to engage with the department to achieve this,” Hensens said.

The Department of Military Veterans responded to a series of questions regarding the non-payment of bursaries.

Communications spokesperson, Lebogang Mothapa denied that there was a crisis regarding the payment of military veteran bursaries at Stenden.

“Discussions are underway with the institution given the fact that there is no formal contract between the university and the DMV which could create a challenge from a point of view of the PFMA [(Public Finance Management Act] and accountability,” said Mothapa.

As to why no payment has been made since the agreement with Stenden administration, and the inception of students between January and June 2015, Mothapa said: “Primarily because there was no contract signed and as such the matter is under discussion to find an amicable solution and the parents as well as the students have been informed as such.”

Going forward, the department said that various options are being explored within the context of what the law could permit.

With the concern that the bursary students would have to forfeit their studies, Mothapa responded by stating, “following recent engagements all the stakeholders have agreed to work closely to avoid such an eventuality”.


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