South Africa: Nsfas Continue to Fail Working Class Students

press release

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union [NEHAWU] has learned with disgust that 17 students at the King Sabatha Dalindyebo College in the Ntabozuko Campus in the Eastern Cape have been suspended for protesting for not receiving their correct allowances.

Students who are supported by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme [NSFAS] were supposed to receive stipends averaging R2900 a month, however, they only received R290. When students queried the matter with management they were suspended for alleged assault, bullying and intimidation of both teachers and fellow students.

The dispensing of incorrect amounts badly affects students who have to go to bed hungry and being unable to prepare for classes and exams. Students should not have to worry about finance because NSFAS has the obligation to ensure that they pay on time and the correct amount. Worrying about where their next meal will come from disturbs students from concentrating on their studies.

NEHAWU has been on the forefront of highlighting the dire state of NSFAS and its role in disadvantaging many young people who are yearning for education. In its current form NSFAS is doing the opposite of its mandate which is to provide access to deserving students especially those from working class background. Instead it is failing these students and leaving them with no prospect of getting qualifications.

During our presentation to the portfolio committee on higher education and training on the 9th October 2020 we alerted the committee to a phenomenon called the "hand of God". When students apply for NSFAS funding the application can get withdrawn without anyone touching the system. About 20 000 students were affected by the hand of God during 2019 application cycle. This means if the application is withdrawn, it cannot be processed any further. In other instances, the "hand of God" can withdraw the application after the student has been funded. The impact is that; the student will not be able to register again.

The disbursement run is done by ICT developers with no experience in the process. Files must still be checked manually for errors. The transfer between operation and finance for payments is still happening on spreadsheets. There are glitches in the IT system and when the students apply the system cannot confirm their application. This has disadvantaged many students and has denied them access to higher education.

It is for these reasons that we believe that the Administrator must immediately leave because under his reign many deserving students have missed the opportunity to further their studies in institutions of higher learning and will continue to be side-lined because of the lack of proper systems. We believe a Chief Executive Officer [CEO] and a board must be appointed as a matter of urgency to put the institution on the right track.

NEHAWU will work with its allies in the higher education terrain including the South African Further Education and Training Student Association [SAFETSA], the Young Communist League of South Africa [YCLSA] and the South African Students Congress [SASCO] in helping all students who are failed by NSFAS. Moreover, the national union will continue to agitate for the changing of the orientation of NSFAS from being a loan scheme into a vehicle for free education for deserving students especially those from working class background.

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