A BATTLE over state funding for students at one of South Africa’s largest nursing colleges is brewing between the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) and the Eastern Cape Health Department.
Denosa is furious over the department’s new bursary system for student nurses at the Lilitha College of Nursing which is substantially lower than the previous salary-based funding.
But the department claims the new system helps prevent nurses from spending their book and meal allowances on items like flat-screen TVs.
Lilitha is the second-largest college in South Africa and operates five campuses and 13 sub-campuses in the Eastern Cape, including Nelson Mandela Bay.
The bursary system was implemented in April and is slowly being phased in across the province.
The department is adamant the new system – about R57000 a year per student – will continue.
But Denosa wants the salary- based scheme – about R162000 a year for education and salary costs – to be reinstated.
Denosa provincial secretary Koliswa Tota said the bursary system could not financially support the students.The union also claims the new system will act as a constraint in creating future jobs.
"The department is now ignoring the poorest of the poor with the new bursary,” Tota said.
The union has already lodged a complaint with the national department.
Tota said students would struggle to buy food, uniforms required during training and textbooks under the new scheme.
"We oppose this new system and will fight for it to be removed,” she said.
She denied that students wasted the money on frivolous items.
The union was depending on Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s reversing the decision and expected an answer from him soon.
For the 2012/13 year, the department budgeted R324-million for the college, based on the new bursary system.
Last year, the department found that 86% of the college’s budget was being used to compensate students and college staff.
With the budget reform, the department increased the student intake from 750 last year to 1230 this year.
"A 43% saving on the cost of funding salaried students made it possible to increase the capacity at the college,” a department report said.
"Recent events were the manipulation of meal and book allowances [which] saw many bursars boasting with their flat-screen televisions and other high-end consumer goods.”
Provincial spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department was forging ahead with the new system.