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In light of mass student uprisings in South Africa, voicing discontent over the educational system’s high barriers to entry, a crowdfunding platform has emerged to help students faced with tuition debt.
Founder of the one-year old startup Phiwa Nkambule says that while the #FeesMustFall protests have succeeded in freezing fee increments for 2016, the South African student financing is broken and many students struggle with systemic challenges.
He explains that the tertiary education system is dominated by loans, bursaries and scholarships, of which most of these leave students in so-called “black debt” after graduation.
Based on the decentralised nature of public crowdfunding, EduFund differs from other available funds in that it does not leave the student in any debt.
“Decentralisation of student financing is vital and will be more effective considering the challenges government is facing funding everyone and the scarcity of bursaries,” Nkambule tells Ventureburn.
The founder elaborates:
[EduFund] is so important because students are not studying and writing exams as they do not know how they’ll pay off their tuition debts and how they’ll get registration fees for 2016. There hasn’t been a way for South African student to raise scholarships from the public in a long time and it is needed for “black debt” to be defeated.
In terms of funders, EduFund is geared towards university alumnus who “understand the struggles faced by students” but “don’t really have a direct way of helping students”. While controversial, the #FeesMustFall protests have gained heaps of support from around the globe, from Canada to the UK and Australia.
The platform launched last week and so far has only attracted one project. Nkambule hopes to assist 500 South African students with tuition debt by the end of this year. Over the next five years, EduFund aims to reach over 1-million students locally and abroad.