Bongumenzi Mvelase is on the right path to realise his childhood dream of becoming a top advocate after receiving funding assistance. The 22-year-old third-year law student from the North-West University (NWU) is a beneficiary of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Mvelase who is from Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal, lost both his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandparents. Sadly, they also passed away when he was in Grade 10, which forced him to relocate to Gauteng where he completed his matric while living with other family members.
However, Mvelase says he remained committed to his childhood dream and studied hard to achieve the minimum requirement to be admitted to the university. As per the NWU entry requirements for a Bachelor of Laws, Mvelase obtained level 5 (60–69%) in English and Isizulu and level 3 (40–49%) in mathematics. His admission point score, which is an average of all subjects – excluding life orientation – was 32.
Mvelase says his consistently good performance in matric and support from his family and teachers inspired him to hold onto his dream of becoming a lawyer and he began to look for funding opportunities.
He learnt about the NSFAS at a career day and applied in his final year at high school. He says that he found the process easy and did not battle when he arrived at the university in his first year.
The NSFAS provided him with a full bursary that covered tuition and study fees, accommodation, book allowance and a monthly allowance of R1 500 for food. He says being an NSFAS beneficiary was a relief to him because he could focus on his studies and not have to worry about money.
He uses part of his allowance to travel back home to KwaZulu-Natal during the school holidays.
While he realises that he has a long journey ahead of him before he is admitted as an advocate, he is grateful for the journey he has travelled so far.
“There were moments where I was not sure what I would do after matric because you need money to go to university, so I’m glad that the NSFAS has brought me this far, even though there is still a long way to go,” he says.
Responding to his career choice, Mvelase says he learnt from an early age that legal costs were not affordable for ordinary people and he hopes to help others once he establishes himself in the legal fraternity. He aspires to be a human rights lawyer to make an impact in his community, particularly on issues about land reform, which he says are still unresolved in his village.
He says being in university has been a life-changing experience for him. He has met inspiring people who are in a position to help him achieve his goals.
“I have taken part in many programmes that helped me understand the career I have chosen. I get to meet people who are excelling in the field; it is an exciting experience,” he says.
Support for students
Mvelase encourages prospective students who cannot afford study fees to apply to the NSFAS to realise their dreams.
He cautions, however, that it is challenging for students – particularly those from underprivileged families who have not travelled much – because they are miles from home. He is concerned about fellow beneficiaries who end up dropping out because of their poor academic performance. Students who are feeling overwhelmed, he says, must use the university’s facilities for mental and psychological support.
He says one of the NSFAS conditions for students keeping their bursary until graduation is that they perform well academically.
“The NSFAS brought hope to many of us from disadvantaged backgrounds. I would encourage everyone out there, particularly those coming from rural areas, to submit their application on time and improve their pass rates so they can pursue the careers of their choice.
“We must also understand that while it all sounds good and free, someone is paying for us through tax. We must not abuse the opportunities,” he says.