EVERY year, hundreds of students drop out of university due to financial difficulties – only to return to dire financial circumstances.
It is only a few who manage to secure a bursary to fund their studies.
These bursaries often pay only for academic and residential expenses, leaving students without additional funding for food.
The University of the Free State (UFS) realised that up to 60% of its students were food-insecure.
Many of these students admitted to having to work after class to buy food or having to beg from friends.
In 2011, the UFS launched the No Student Hungry (NSH) Bursary Programme, which provides modest food bursaries to food-insecure students.
Currently 130 students receive food bursaries from the programme to ensure they have one less thing to worry about while they are studying.
This year, at their autumn graduation ceremony, six beneficiaries of the NSH Bursary Programme received their degrees – an achievement all of them feel they could not have reached if it had not been for the support by NSH.
For Tshililo Nethengwe, an accounting student from Venda, her first year at university in 2012 was a daily battle. Although her parents managed to pay her study and accommodation fees, the meagre monthly food allowance her parents could afford was not enough to last her the month.
“Every morning I used to tell myself not to think about food, because I was here to study. Somehow, I still managed to get something to eat – even if it was just a few slices of bread a day,” says Nethengwe.
“I was very determined to succeed in my studies, and NSH took away the burden of needing to ‘hustle’ and beg for food.”
Nethengwe is now doing her honours in BCom Accounting.
“The NSH Bursary Programme invests in potential, and supports academic achievers who come from challenging backgrounds,” says Vicky Simpson, co-ordinator of the NSH Bursary Programme.
“We promote the success of undergraduate students, enabling them to focus on their studies and not on where their next meal will come from.
“Successful graduates will have a positive and direct impact on our economy, different communities, and many households.
“The NSH Bursary Programme is awarded to students on the basis of financial need, academic excellence, and the commitment to serve the community.
“We have helped more than 500 students since 2011, when Prof. Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor and rector, started NSH.
“These students share amazing stories that inspire us. Many had to endure hardship, but they managed to persevere, they worked hard, and they made it to university.
“The ability to buy a meal makes an enormous difference,” says Simpson