Wits medical grad gets R95k student debt paid, lands job to help fight Covid-19

Retshidisitswe Kotane is at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 after having had her student debt paid off by a crowdfunding platform, paving a way for her to register as a medical professional.
Retshidisitswe Kotane is at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 after having had her student debt paid off by a crowdfunding platform, paving a way for her to register as a medical professional.
Image: Supplied/Feenix

Retshidisitswe Kotane, a medical graduate, could have been an unemployment statistic, having missed three graduation ceremonies due to unpaid fees, but thanks to a crowdfunding initiative, she is now at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19.

Kotane, 25, recently registered with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) after having her R95,000 debt paid off by the Feenix crowdfunding platform.

She completed her Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice studies, a new mid-level health care provider qualification in SA, at the University of Witwatersrand Medical School, but struggled to get her certificate because she had outstanding fees that she was not able to pay.

Kotane could not register with the HPCSA without her Wits graduation certificate, and she was unable to find a job.

“Kotane heard about the Feenix crowdfunding platform, through which she was able to connect with individuals in her community to partly reach her fundraising goal with the bulk of the balance paid by the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation.

“Tutuwa is one of the institutions that has joined the Feenix community to ensure that students are given a chance to graduate and pursue the next step in their future,” Feenix said in a statement.

The Foundation aims to inspire and support the growth and development of young people so that they can reach their full potential and be productive citizens. Our contribution to Feenix is to fund young people like Retshidisitswe Kotane to enable her to attain her degree certificate which she has worked so hard for, is an example of our contribution towards building a better SA and leaving a legacy,” said Zanele Twala, CEO of the Tutuwa Foundation.

Relaying her story of how her life changed for the better, Kotane said: “After I received the e-mail telling me my debt would be covered, I was in complete disbelief. I only realised it was true when I checked my fee statement a week later and found that the outstanding fees had indeed been settled.”

After having her debt settled, Kotane went to the HPCSA offices and registered as a health professional.

A few days later, she received a call offering her a locum contract at a private clinic.

“To her surprise, a week after registering with the HPCSA, a former lecturer called her to advise that there was an opportunity to apply for work at Netcare. Kotane sent her CV through, and within a few days, was offered a position as part of the response team to the Covid-19 pandemic at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD),” Feenix said.

All of this happened within less than a month of having my debt cleared and registering with the HPCSA,” said Kotane.

I am so grateful to Feenix and the Tutuwa Foundation. It has been an overwhelming journey and I can still hardly believe it.”

Kotane is also proud to be serving her country as it faces the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am doing what I am passionate about and learning so much at the same time,” she said.

Universities are unable to release graduate certificates to students who haven’t settled their fees in full,” explained Cara-Jean Petersen, student engagement manager at Feenix.

For some professions, the certificate is required proof of qualification and without it, graduates cannot be employed. This creates a vicious circle of unemployment, as the student cannot get a job until they can prove their qualification, but they cannot pay their outstanding fees until they have secured a job.”

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