| PORT ELIZABETH

Ethel Mavaivai has been admitted to university at the age of 26 - but she can’t afford the fees

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Immigrants, even if they came to SA as children, do not benefit from free tuition

Photo of woman
Ethel Mavaivai has gone through an ordeal to get her matric so that she can study chemistry at university. Photo supplied
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Ethel Mavaivai, at the age of 26, just completed her matric and has been accepted to Nelson Mandela University. For most people in South Africa this would be great news, especially because people who can’t afford the fees are now being funded by the state. But Mavaivai, who came to South Africa in 2011 is Zimbabwean and is not eligible for free tuition.

Mavaivai’s mother is a part time domestic worker in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth. She and her mother live together with her three siblings. There is no prospect of her paying the R90,000 fees for a first-year undergraduate diploma in chemistry.

When Mavaivai followed her mother to South Africa eight years ago, she had dropped out of high school in Zimbabwe because she could not pay the fees. She went through an ordeal to get into a local school because she did not have a transfer letter from a Zimbabwean school, having dropped out.

So she enrolled in an Adult Basic Education programme and this eventually gave her sufficient qualification to enrol into grade 10 at Coselelani Secondary School in Motherwell in 2016.

She passed all her subjects comfortably, getting a distinction for isiXhosa.

“I originally applied for Medical Laboratory Science but got accepted for my second option which is a diploma in Analytical Chemistry. I am now having sleepless nights as to where to get registration fees because my mother cannot afford it. It hurts seeing my dream slipping away right in front of me,” Mavaivai said.

“As a foreigner I don’t qualify for government sponsorships. It pains me that after this long journey my dream gets shattered when I am knocking on the doors of university. The only way to end the cycle of poverty in any society is by getting educated. I wish I could even get a private company to sponsor me then I will work for them during and after completing my course.”

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TOPICS:  Immigration Tertiary Education