68 students ditched

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

About 200 students sponsored by the Mpumalanga department of education to study at Fort Hare University have had their funding withdrawn because many of them "failed too much".

In 2006 the department offered learnerships to 190 students at Fort Hare on four-year contracts.

A student, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, told Sowetan: "We need urgent help because we will not be allowed to write examinations later this month."

He said their contracts stated that the department would cover 100 percent of the cost of their tuition, accommodation, meals and transport, but when some students failed in 2006, they were told to pay for the courses they failed.

"This year after registration, we were told that we are no longer the responsibility of the department of education," said another student.

The students' concern is that "since they are in the books of the department, it is impossible to apply for other scholarships".

"We tried to negotiate with them to at least pay for the agreed four years, but they refused. The university also tried to intervene but had no luck," said a student.

The students also claim that the department will not release them from their contracts so that they can try to get other sponsors. They say the department insists that they still have "a binding contract".

They claim that they were threatened and told that they would face legal action from the government if they dropped out and that they would be expected to pay a "huge lump sum".

Spokesman for the education department Jasper Zwane said the students were aware when they signed the contracts that the sponsorship would be based on their academic performances.

"We have only dumped 68 of the 190 because they were not performing well," Zwane said