Defend Truth


Universities should not withhold certificates from impoverished graduates


Chabana Chabana is a student of Public Management, with passion for public accountability. He is also an activist based in Free State with a specific focus on social justice and workers’ rights. He is presently a Free State Interim provincial co-ordinator for the Labour and Employment Relations Associations of South Africa. He is a former national executive member of the South African Union of Students.

The manner in which institutions are behaving towards their alumni is no different from loan sharks who would hold on to identity documents and bank cards of their victims - so that they are condemned to perpetual poverty and debt.

Universities are struggling to keep up with widening debts of their alumni, and they most probably threaten their financial sustainability. Even if these debts pose such a great threat to their financial wellbeing, society must and should question the fairness of refusing these graduates access to their certificates and thus also the right to participate in the economy on the basis of being in dire financial straits.

The vice-like grip on graduate certificates by universities frustrates not only the graduates but also their entire families. These certificates, to black families, represent a break with generational poverty. The documents are an inspiration to their siblings, hence they are hung on the walls in our homes as a reminder and motivation that hard work pays off.

Our universities are still mercilessly holding on to certificates of many graduates who cannot afford to settle their tuition fees.

Their certificates are not released until such time that they have paid what is owed to these universities. It is unfortunate that not even alumni associations, who are supposedly expected to be the voice of these graduates in their respective institutions, are speaking up for them, despite their dire circumstances. Many of these graduates are unemployed and it seems they will not find employment in the foreseeable future for as long as their certificates are held by the universities.

They are also unable to pursue postgraduate studies because their results will not be released for them to apply to other institutions.

Their long-distance relationship with their alma maters makes their situation worse because they are unable to hold universities t0 ransom if their demands are not met, as with the #FeesMustFall movement. Their dire social circumstances are exacerbated by the fact that potential employers expect them to produce evidence of their qualifications when they apply for jobs. Some business funders expect entrepreneurs to have some level of education as a condition before investing in ideas. They do not consider a letter or affidavit that says one has completed a particular qualification as sufficient proof.

The manner in which these institutions are behaving towards their alumni is no different from loan sharks who would hold on to identity documents and bank cards of their victims, just so that they are condemned to perpetual poverty and debt.

The certificates become the only tickets out of poverty for these graduates yet they are not accessible to them. The dreams of finding employment get deferred until the second coming of Jesus Christ as many of them want to use their education to break away from generational poverty.

Though institutions of higher learning have other means to recuperate money owed to them, they continue to subject graduates to this kind of brutalisation. The institutions cling to certificates yet they have referred graduates owing them to debt collectors and credit bureaus. Graduates are condemned to poverty.

We must fight against the brutalisation of graduates to poverty. Our institutions must be made aware that there are other means to recuperate what is due to them.

To cling to these certificates is tantamount to the povertisation of this section of our society. We must fight to ensure that these graduates practise their trades because some possess scarce skills which can propel our economy forward. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted