Lack of access to financial assistance for funding tertiary studies continues to be a prevailing crisis in South Africa’s Higher Education sector. This has often resulted in students taking separate measures for financial assistance on social media.
This was enough to motivate fifth-year medical student Tshegofatso Masenya to roll up her sleeves and get the rest of the country involved in addressing the issues through GoShare, an online student crowdfunding platform that assists students with covering their outstanding debt.
The University of Cape Town alumni says that after seeing a social media post by a final-year medical student appealing to the online community to assist with settling her student debt, she realized that she had to step in.
“As I began to etch closer to the end of my degree, I started to realise that perhaps I should aspire to a different mechanism to drive the change that I would like to see. I vividly remember the day when Taz Emeran, a final year medical student in 2020 posted an Instagram story pleading with her online community to assist in settling her fee debt so that she could graduate.”
Emeran, who is now popularly known as the people’s doctor, managed to raise R471 000 within 24 hours. Masenya adds that It was at this point that she realized the power of social media and its potential to address the country’s student funding crisis.
By January 2021 Masenya’s social media accounts were abuzz with similar posts on Twitter, Instagram stories, WhatsApp statuses and Facebook posts.
This would later turn her social media account into a platform for social engagement where students would receive help with settling outstanding debts from as little as R1000 to R200 000.
However, Masenya grew concerned that students had to compromise their dignity in order to legitimise their funding requests.
She was also not satisfied with how some of the transactional engagements between students and donors were carried out and thus established Goshare, an online donation-based crowdfunding platform that allows students to raise funds to cover their outstanding fees.
“Firstly, many of the students felt the need to demonstrate the extent of their poverty in order to legitimise their requests. I found that it strips students of their dignity and precludes them from the opportunities of formulating an identity beyond the confines of their socioeconomic circumstances," she explained
"Secondly, for various reasons, some students' campaigns quickly gained popularity over others, further entrenching already existing unequal playing fields. Lastly, with people sometimes placing their personal banking details for donors to pay to, this would make some donors hesitant to help. Due to its lack of regulation down the line, this method would be prone to fraudulent activity and this would disenfranchise students who are genuinely in need” she added
The platform works as a two-sided marketplace for students and donors. After submitting relevant, supporting documentation, students will be eligible to curate their profiles on the platform.
Donors will have the opportunity to visit the site, view the student's profiles and make a donation. Anyone can be a donor. A fellow student, a lecturer, a neighbour, a stranger. Everyone has a contribution to make.
Students must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible to raise funds on the platform:
- South African citizen or a refugee or asylum-seeking residence in South Africa
- All SASSA grant recipients
- Registered at a South African tertiary institution
- Combined household gross income of less than R600 000
- Current or historical fee debt
Masenya further explains that what distinguishes GoShare from similar platforms is that they take student dignity very seriously.
With this in mind, students on the platform are allowed to carefully curate their profile based on what they would prefer to share with their prospective donors, as opposed to stories about their financial shortcomings.
“We know the pressure that comes with being on the verge of financial exclusion whilst being expected to perform at the same level as your counterparts who do not share the same concerns.”
One of the challenges that the platform has had to overcome, according to Masenya, is sourcing and retaining technical talent to build its Minimum Viable Product.
However, after winning 3rd place at the Pitch UCT earlier this month and 3rd again at the YouthStart entrepreneurial challenge in June, Masenya says that they have been able to kick off the development of the first version of their website.
Masenya further points out that she would like to see GoShare grow and transform into a movement that inspires a widespread culture of investing in one another.
She adds that it is her hope that GoShare will grow into a household with a presence in campuses across the country, and for it to be a platform that urges us to give positive connotations to public fundraising.
To get in touch with the team at GoShare, you can send an email to: [email protected]