Breaking down doors to help mom recoup fees

Crawford mother Elaine Wolfe, whose daughter Nadine was due to graduate with a BA degree at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in April, battled for months to get a refund of R19 000 from the tertiary institution.

However, the lockdown put paid to all graduation ceremonies and it seemed to UWC’s Student Credit Management (SCM) department as well.

The R9 000 was an overpayment deducted from Ms Wolfe’s salary and R10 000 was due to Nadine for a campaign she initiated on campus for the Gender Studies faculty, in August last year.

“As a single parent I applied for NSFAS funding and though I was told her application was successful, no money was forthcoming in 2017, as I was above the salary threshold.

“I made an agreement with the SCM to deduct R1 000 as a personal (Persal) payment,” said Ms Wolfe, a school secretary for the Western Cape Education Department.

The deductions were reflected on Ms Wolfe’s salary slip but not on her bank statement. Ms Wolfe successfully applied to the NSFAS for 2018 so her daughter’s fees were covered.

“When I called UWC in November last year to check if my daughter’s account was clear, they told me there is a credit on my account for R19 000 which I can claim back. Nadine asked that the money she was paid for the Gender Studies fieldwork be transferred to her personal account as the NSFAS had covered her fees. She was sent from pillar to post, even to the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor but still the money was placed in her student account. They said she could ask for it to be reversed after the NSFAS paid her fees at the end of the year.

“The SCM referred me to Vanessa Anthony who asked me to email bank statements and a certified copy of my ID to her office which I did the next day and it would be resolved.

“I have made dozens of phone calls, taken a day off to visit the campus where Melanie Mitchell of Financial Aid, who was very pleasant to work with unlike most other admin staff at the institution, asked for the same documents. When I told her I had done so three months ago, they also emailed Ms Anthony.

“I was sent to the Gender Studies department on a sweltering day (32 degrees), also getting lost on campus to collect a letter of confirmation that my daughter did the field work. The letter was sent to Business Innovation for clearance. Nothing has come of that either. I have had no joy and have been calling and emailing daily.

“Whenever I called I spoke to people who would send me in a circle from Financial Aid to Student Accounts to SCM and even the Deputy Vice Chancellor but Covid-19 has closed the campus.

“My daughter is doing a postgraduate certificate at UCT this year and I’ve had to pay for travelling and books as NSFAS has not paid her a cent to date. But that’s a battle for another day. Please help.”

Spokesperson for UWC, Gasant Abarder, said if he had known about Ms Wolfe’s problem he would have broken down doors to help her.

Despite the lockdown he promised to follow up and he also had several conversations with Ms Wolfe and a “long chat to my daughter about the R10 000 for the fieldwork”.

Mr Abarder must have kicked in a few doors because a day later he said: “We have followed up on the matter and have been in contact with Ms Wolfe. Arrangements are being made to refund the R9 000 which was made through personal payments. We deal with a student body of about 24 000 and there are often intricacies relating to bursaries, NSFAS funding and payment arrangements.

“Regarding the R10 000 for doing fieldwork, further follow up will occur. However, in light of the current national lockdown, we are working remotely under major constraints. We will nevertheless work to resolve the matter.”

Mr Abarder kept his promise despite the obstacles caused by the lockdown. Ms Wolfe confirmed that she received the R9 000 at the beginning of April and the R10 000 was paid in to her daughter’s account over the Easter weekend.

“Thank you so much for your help. There is no other way I would have been successful in this situation.”