South Africa: Brilliant Matriculant Can't Go to University - Because She's Zimbabwean

28 January 2020

Triphin Mudzvengi got seven distinctions and wants to study civil engineering

A top achiever in the 2019 National Senior Certificate examinations in North West Province may not get to university for lack of funds.

Triphin Mudzvengi, 18, obtained distinctions in seven subjects but her parents are battling to raise her tuition fees to study at Wits University. Mudzvengi is Zimbabwean and does not qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding.

She came to South Africa with her parents in 2010.

Mudzvengi cannot also approach the Zimbabwe embassy for any assistance either, because the Refugees Amendment Act forbids refugees and asylum seekers to visit, seek aid or communicate with their governments.

Mudzvengi has been a top achiever at Golf View Park secondary school in Mahikeng since grade 8.

In matric, she got 85% in English Home Language, 80% in Afrikaans First Additional Language, 86% in Mathematics, 89% in Life Orientation 86% in Computer Application Technique, 94% in Life Sciences and 88% in Physical Sciences.

She hoped to study civil engineering at Witwatersrand University where the annual tuition fee is R149,370. Though she qualifies for a R15,000 bursary as a top performer, the university demands 75% of the fee upfront before she registers.

Mudzvengi's father is a part-time bricklayer and her mother is a domestic worker.

"It is sad that our best student is failing to go to university because her parents are poor," said her maths teacher, Pshenolo Kgafela.

"She is also not eligible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme because she is a foreigner. It is disheartening that a young and intelligent girl with a promising future fails to achieve her dreams because of her nationality. As a school we could have assisted her but we have no funds," said Kgafela.

Kgafela said Mudzvengi had also participated actively in school activities.

"I have tried scholarships and bursaries but I can not qualify because I am a foreign national," said Mudzvengi.

Wits senior communications officer Buhle Zuma said the university had limited funding. "The university does recognise academic excellence and awards university entrance scholarships to high achieving applicants on the basis of their matric results.The applicant qualifies for R15,000 off her tuition fees for this year.

"Unfortunately,the university has limited funding and international students are required to pay 75% of the fees upfront. It's a Department of Home Affairs requirement."

Chris Mapingure, chairman of the Zimbabwe Migrants Support Network, said he had hoped to convince the Zimbabwean embassy to help Mudzvengi but the Refugees Amendment Act made that impossible.

"We don't agree with the Refugees Amendment Act because it exposes refugees and asylum seekers to poverty. We want this girl to attend university. This benefits not only her but the entire world," said Mapingure.

The Refugees Amendment Act was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 1 January 2020.

According to the Act, refugee status ceases if a refugee seeks consular services at a diplomatic mission from his or her country of origin or nationality. The Act also states that the refugee cannot apply for any official document from his or her country's embassy or ask for any assistance from that embassy or its institutions.

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