Ghanaian matriculant battles with Home Affairs over documents

Ebenezer Odei has been accepted to study at UCT but his residency status causes funding delays

Photo of young man

Ebenezer Odei was born in South Africa and has lived here his entire life but because he doesn’t have citizenship he may not be able to register for university. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

By Tariro Washinyira

11 January 2019

Ghanaian student Ebenezer Odei matriculated with five distinctions but fears that documentation issues may halt his dream of becoming an accountant.

“It pains me that I have eyes set for university but may not go because of a piece of paper,” he said. He has been accepted to study commerce at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Odei was born in South Africa in 2000 to Ghanaian parents. His parents came to South Africa from Ghana in 1996 and were granted permanent residence in 1997.

Seated in his home in Khayelitsha, Odei told GroundUp: “Everytime I go to bed I worry about whether I will ever get funding for my studies.”

Odei said he couldn’t apply to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) because he doesn’t have a South African ID document. Last year, he went through more than 20 bursary applications but all required an ID, he said.

Students applying to a South African university fit into one of three categories; South African citizen, international, or member of a Southern African Development Country (SADC), of which Ghana is not a member state. Despite being born in South Africa, Odei doesn’t fit into the SADC or SA citizen categories.

He is in the process of sorting out his documentation, which Home Affairs said could take up to eight months. He was worried about missing the application deadline and applied as an international student. But course fee conditions are different for international students.

According to the UCT 2019 fees handbook the first-year of the commerce degree costs between R59,970 and R76,300, of which international students are required pay a minimum initial fee prior to registration or by 1 February 2019.

Odei’s mother is a hairdresser in Khayelitsha and cannot afford to pay university fees. They share a three-bedroom house with a friend. His father died in 2014.

He says that while his mother cannot fund his tertiary education she is the reason he did so well in matric. “My mother made sure I have a place to study inside our small house. During exam time she would stop me from doing chores, cook for me and see to it that I got enough sleep.” He said that since grade 11 he studied until about midnight and was up at 4am the next day to do revision.

“Without the support I got from my mother I wouldn’t have achieved,” said Odei.