THE United Students Representative Council (USRC) says it intends to engage the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) to lobby for the increase of loan bursaries to its members.
USRC was formally registered in April 2014 with the mandate to support the rights of students from different tertiary institutions.
According to the council’s founding member, Hlalele Lekola, USRC was formed following the realisation that students from the various tertiary institutions had “common problems”.
Mr Lekola, who is also Lerotholi Polytechnic Students Representative Council’s Public Relations Officer, said the 26 August 2014 closure of the government-owned institution, popularly known as Fokothi, spurred their reaching out to other SRCs to address the challenges tertiary students were facing.
Fokothi was closed following the death of two first-year students the previous month during an initiation ceremony although it has since been reopened.
“As student representatives, we were keen to find out the reasons for the closure of Fokothi last year since lectures were abruptly suspended indefinitely,” Mr Lekola said.
“After failing to get precise answers from the college’s management, we sought help from SRCs from such institutions as Cooperatives College and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT).”
From the interaction between the SRCs of the institutions, he said, USRC was spawned with a mandate to address the challenges bedevilling the students of the colleges.
Mr Lekola said USRC has set out to engage the NMDS over the delays in issuing out students’ allowances “that has become common place each academic year”. NMDS is a department under the Ministry of Development Planning which provides financial aid for the upkeep students.
“We need to know the processes involved for one to get financial aid and the time frame in which the monies are to be disbursed,” he said.
“For instance, we may sign to receive the money but only receive it three or four months later. It is only when students threaten to strike that the money is usually deposited in our accounts.”
He said that they are also investigating allegations that tertiary institutions are “handled differently by NMDS” thereby prejudicing students.
USRC, Mr Lekola added, also intends to lobby NMDS to increase students’ stipends which he said had not been reviewed despite the spiralling cost of living.
“There’s no clear plan on whether we will get any increases, yet food and other commodities keep going up. We also need to be considered as consumers of ever rising goods and services,” he said.
Mr Lekola, however, said they are yet to receive any response from the NMDS and Department of Higher Education, adding that “all we are asking for is a meeting”.
He said they also intent to engage SRCs from the National University of Lesotho, Roma College of Nursing other institutions across the country to bolster their organisation.
Contacted for comment, NMDS Principal Information Officer, Moeketsi Rankhone, said they did not know about the existence of the USRC, adding that they are “striving to work for all in a transparent manner”.