Over 200 South African students face eviction in Russia

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The Mpumalanga department of education has blamed delays in the appointment of a service provider for failure to pay stipends and tuition fees to students in Russia.

More than 200 South African students studying in Russia are facing eviction from their residences after the non-payment for almost two months.

Students who spoke to Sowetan yesterday said the last time they received money from the department was in August, saying they were vulnerable and landlords were threatening to kick them out this week if they didn’t settle their debts.

Department spokesperson Jasper Zwane said they would pay for accomodation and fees by October 14.

Student leader Sandile Gumede said some students had been served with eviction letters while those who had been kicked out were now squatting in other students’ residences.

“It’s hard here. As leaders we are trying to locate students who have already been evicted and are trying to negotiate with their landlords,” he said.

“The government said they will pay in four days. This thing started in July at the end of the academic year when students could not be flown back home and because of that we are in this mess; they knew it but decided to downplay it.

“There are other students who are in SA and could not even come [back] here to continue studying in September when universities opened. We are in fear because some students are being stopped from entering classes because their fees have not been paid. We really need help.”

Zwane said: “In the past the placement of the students to various institutions was facilitated by a contracted implementation agent called Green Tutu, trading as Racu., whose contract expired in March.

“The department advertised a tender in October 2021 to solicit an implementing agent. The department did not receive any responses and accordingly it was re-advertised this month of October 2022.

It is important to note that the department has since increased the stipend from R4,000 to R5,000 per student per month to mitigate the challenges that the students are experiencing as a result of the conflict involving Russia and Ukraine.

“During all this, the department has been able to process the monthly stipend for all students except for 15 whose banking details were not fully operational. Other options are currently being explored to resolve the matter.”

“As of now, the department does not have information of students whose academic contracts have been terminated as well as students who were evicted from their respective places of accommodation,” he said.

Nomanqeshe Mlombo, a final-year student in medicine, said she came to SA last year and has not been able to go back to Russia.

“I was suppose to go back in September but the university withheld my invitation letter for me to get a visa because my government didn’t pay for my school fees.

“Actually, they have to pay about 70% of the study fees but they haven’t paid yet, which leaves me here now in SA with my future hanging,” said Mlombo. 

Gilbert Martin from We Are South Africans, an organisation advocating for the students in Russia, said they were consulting with their lawyers to take the department to court. 

“We will go after the department. This is very disappointing from the government, where they take people’s children to a foreign country and then leave them there with no payments of their stipends, rent and tuition fees,” said Martin. 


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