Thami Mazwai's column, titled "Why do we still thumb our noses at poverty?" (July 25), refers. Mr Mazwai makes unfair generalisations about students from the universities he names, including the University of Cape Town.
He describes students drinking lavishly and throwing R200 notes at each other, and assumes this is a typical picture of students across SA's top universities. His sweeping statement does not correlate with the reality we see on our campus.
UCT has many students on financial aid, not only from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) but also through UCT's financial assistance programme, which distributes R100m every year to needy students - many of whom represent the first generation in their families to go to university. Every day we also see many examples of students who make enormous sacrifices to complete their degrees, some by holding down more than one job, on top of their university work, to help sustain their families.
In addition, a siz able portion of UCT students are committed to outreach programmes. For instance, Shawco's tutoring programmes and mobile medical clinics, which go out to disadvantaged communities to provide medical care under the supervision of qualified volunteer doctors, rely on student volunteers not only to participate in the outreaches but to help raise the necessary funding.
UCT involve students in outreach opportunities in surrounding communities. A strategic goal of UCT is to encourage students to respond actively to social justice issues. Second-and third-year courses often involve students in projects that will address a practical community need. For instance, students in the UCT chapter of Engineers Without Borders recently designed and installed a biodigester system in Khayelitsha to turn organic waste into methane gas for cooking, with the added benefit of slurry that could be used for fertiliser.
We agree with Mr Mazwai's larger notion that students in general should be mindful of poverty issues and the needs of disadvantage communities. While we agree that irresponsible students could be found on every campus in the world, they are in the minority. We see multiple examples on our campus of responsible, socially conscious, hard-working young people.
Executive Director, Communications & Marketing, University of Cape Town