The Overwhelming Cost of Living for Students

The fuel price drop is set to bring motorists some relief at the pumps on Wednesday. However, this is little comfort for NSFAS bursary holders who have been feeling the pinch and have been forced to come up with creative ways to stretch their cents.

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By Nomonde Maphumulo
Images by Nomonde Maphumulo

Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused fuel prices to skyrocket. Since everything we consume is transported, the high cost has passed on to other products. Though in South Africa the fuel price is set to drop on Wednesday, the price of other products is not likely to follow suit. Like everyone else, NSFAS-funded students are finding it hard to maintain their lifestyle.

Bertha Mothemane, 21, a senior UJ student funded by NSFAS, said: “I go out a lot with my friends and never complained about the monthly allowance I used to receive from the bursary but the increasing prices on essentials has affected me a lot.

“In high school, I used to think being a varsity student was very cool because you have a lot of money but now I see things differently. I no longer go out to have fun like I used to, I really miss those times.”

However, Mothemane has found a way to supplement her strained allowance. “I have resorted to tutoring to earn extra cash. I also braid other students’ hair and I do my own hair which is something I never used to do before. It is a tough situation for students but we do the best we can.” 

Starting a business. Maintaining a lifestyle especially if one has a single income stream becomes difficult with prices of fuel, food and clothes increasing. Students are forced to find alternative ways to earn extra cash. Koketso Phoshane, 19, another NSFAS beneficiary, explains that before she started selling muffins, fat cakes, printing for other students and selling Herbalife products, she used to go hungry towards month-end and that affected her academic life. 

“It is difficult to be a student, especially a NSFAS beneficiary because the monthly R1500 allowance is not enough. As a student I would like for the money to increase by R500, that way I would be able to buy all the important things and not cut down due to the lack of funds.”

Finding a silver lining. Balancing studies and work is possible but can take a toll. Nomandla Mbatha, 21, tries her best to balance work and school. Mbatha has been a NSFAS beneficiary for three years at UJ. However, in the last seven months she has been forced to work for a local soccer team as an assistant coach to earn money for any emergency that might arise and to have extra cash.

“I love my job and I love studying but I have to work even on days when I should be resting, for example on weekends. Sometimes, it’s difficult to do, especially during a week of assignments and tests. Perhaps if the allowance was R2500, I would be able to focus on school work and go out more with my friends.” 

The majority of students complain that the R1500 monthly allowance is not enough and they are forced to find ways to make extra income. This might not be a bad thing as it teaches them about starting a business and keeping a job. YC

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