A lesson in giving: academics dig deep to keep students afloat
Many of SA’s top minds have pledged to part with large chunks of their salaries for the next three months
A university’s vice-chancellor has opened his heart — and his wallet — to battling students and their families “who are in despair because of the lockdown”.
Prof Henk de Jager, vice-chancellor of the Central University of Technology (CUT) in the Free State, is giving away almost 40% of his net pay to help students and their extended families.
He said “he felt obligated, not only as a vice-chancellor, but as a caring citizen, in this hour of need to reach out to the less fortunate”.
He is donating almost 31% of his salary to 15 people, including their extended families, and a further 8.47% to a relief fund that he established on campus to support needy students and staff.
“My family fully supports me. We are all givers by nature. We feel compelled to share and reach out. Not just now, but always,” De Jager said.
The vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Dr Sizwe Mabizela from Rhodes University and Prof Mandla Makhanya from Unisa are also donating 33% of their salaries for three months to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Solidarity Fund.
Heads of other universities are also digging deep into their pockets to help needy students.
Prof Nana Poku, head of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), is contributing a third of his salary for the next three months to the UKZN hardship fund, which is aimed at addressing food insecurity and menstrual hygiene among students and staff.
Members of committees from the top five tiers of management at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) will be contributing R282,619 over the next three months to the institution’s Solidarity Fund.
DUT spokesperson Noxolo Memela said some members in this and in other categories will contribute more, depending on their personal and family circumstances.
“We estimate that these staff members will contribute close to R1m over the next three months.”
University of Cape Town (UCT) spokesperson Elijah Moholola said vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng will be donating 20% of her salary for three months towards the institution’s Covid-19 emergency fund.
“Professor Phakeng already donates 10% of her salary monthly to the VC Student Fund, set up when she took office in July 2018,” he said.
From the time he was appointed vice-chancellor of Wits University, Prof Adam Habib has been giving away the equivalent of three months of his salary every year to support students.
Walter Sisulu University’s vice-chancellor Prof Rob Midgley has been contributing R25,000 a month to assist underprivileged students since his appointment in 2016.
The vice-chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga, Prof Thoko Mayekiso, said she has supported the destitute and students at her university “as a matter of principle and conscience”.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) spokesperson Lauren Kansley said many executives were supporting families on a monthly basis and that this financial responsibility has increased as a result of lockdown.
Willa de Ruyter, from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) said senior managers and staff, in their personal capacity, have been contributing to government’s Covid-19 relief fund since its inception.
Takalani Dzaga, spokesperson for the University of Venda, said vice-chancellor Bernard Nthambeleni made a contribution to Ramaphosa’s relief fund the day he announced it.
“Regarding the new pledge of 33% of his salary, the vice-chancellor is looking into this matter with his family and will determine the percentage or increase on his initial pledge.”
North West University (NWU) spokesperson Louis Jacobs said vice-chancellor Prof Dan Kgwadi regarded “giving or not as a personal and private matter”.
“Some members of the NWU community are continuously making financial and other contributions to various initiatives to assist households and communities.”
Stellenbosch University’s vice-chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers said his students were facing the harsh realities of food and accommodation shortages, and serious challenges regarding access to online learning platforms because of a lack of internet access or essential digital equipment.
Unisa spokesperson Martin Ramotshela said the institution was making a significant contribution through research to find a vaccine.
The vice-chancellors of the University of the Free State (UFS) and the University of Pretoria (UP) are making contributions, in their personal capacity, to their universities to buy digital devices and data for internet connectivity for needy students.
UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader said vice-chancellor Prof Francis Petersen will be contributing a portion of his salary over the next three months to the university’s data and digital device fund.
UP vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe will be making a donation to the university’s Solidarity Fund, which is raising funds to buy devices that will be loaned to poor students, said the institution’s spokesperson, Rikus Delport.