18 January 2019

Africa: No Citizenship, No Financial Aid - Refugee Students Get Raw Deal

Photo: NSFAS
National Student Financial Aid Scheme logo (file photo).

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme received almost half a million applications for the funding of higher education in 2019. Among those who need not bother applying, however, are students who do not have a South African ID book. The idea that financial aid should be reserved for South African citizens might seem fair enough on paper -- but when you consider the case of refugees or asylum seekers, everything starts to look more morally complicated.

Natasha Chigamba is 20 years old, and for almost half her life she has lived in South Africa.

Born in Zimbabwe, Chigamba was orphaned at seven and sent to live with her grandmother. There, her living situation quickly became abusive, to the point where her life was endangered.

When Chigamba was 11 years old, she was smuggled out of her grandmother's house by an aunt and taken to live in South Africa.

"I kind of ran away," Chigamba says softly.

In Cape Town, Chigamba was taken in by another aunt, and began a new life.

"I got an asylum [seeker] status and started schooling in Grade 6," she says. "Everything was pretty smooth from the time I reached high school."

Chigamba matriculated from Oaklands...

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