Students slam NSFAS pay delays

Students pushed open a gate and stormed one of the DUT campuses during a protest. Picture: Screen grab of video

Students pushed open a gate and stormed one of the DUT campuses during a protest. Picture: Screen grab of video

Published Feb 23, 2024


Student Representative Councils (SRC) and political parties have raised fears about the delays in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) payments, saying this may see some students missing the deadline for registration or unable to attend classes at higher education institutions.

Durban University of Technology (DUT) students protested at Durban campuses on Wednesday over NSFAS allowances not being paid, accommodation issues and the looming closure of the registration process.

On Monday, University of KwaZulu-Natal students protested at the Westville and Pietermaritzburg campuses, calling for the suspension of classes while challenges related to NSFAS allowances and registration are being resolved.

The EFF Student Command at both universities had told “The Mercury” that the failure of NSFAS to pay allowances was impacting on several students.

Buhle Mtshali, spokesperson for the South African Students Congress at the Mangosuthu University of Technology, on Thursday said that students at the institution were also facing NSFAS challenges.

“Registration is expected to close next week. There are many students who haven’t received their allocations from NSFAS for fees, accommodation, study material and even meals.”

Mtshali said they hoped the situation would be speedily resolved.

“We were promised that the funds will reflect by next week and we are hoping for the best, that the situation will be resolved and students can return to their studies.”

Chantel King, DA spokesperson on higher education, said NSFAS capacity challenges had deteriorated due to centralising of its operations.

“NSFAS needs to be decentralised to provinces for easier access for students.

Taking on a loan system running parallel to the bursary system is worsening the capacity and ICT challenges.”

King said they had raised the challenges of students still waiting for funding outcomes to access tuition and accommodation with NSFAS during the Parliament portfolio committee meeting and had also written to the acting NSFAS CEO asking for a progress report, since institution registration deadlines were fast approaching.

IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the party was concerned about NSFAS and the consequential delay in payments.

“It has impacted students’ ability to register for their courses and secure accommodation. These delays hinder their academic progress and also place undue stress and uncertainty on their well-being.”

Hlengwa said the party believed that education was a fundamental right and a driver for empowerment of youth and the nation.

“It is unacceptable that administrative inefficiencies and systemic failures are depriving students of their right to education. We are particularly concerned about the disproportionate impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

The party called on the Department of Higher Education and Training, as well as NSFAS, to urgently address these delays and to implement immediate measures to ensure that all eligible students receive their funding promptly.

“Furthermore, the IFP urges the government to conduct a comprehensive review of the NSFAS funding model and its administrative processes to identify and rectify the root causes of these delays.”

Hluphi Gafane, ActionSA National Youth Forum chairperson, said they believed in the importance of every citizen having access to quality education.

To ensure that access, affordable accommodation was a clear priority.

“Evidence of this need can be seen in the turmoil across universities, especially at Stellenbosch University and CPUT, where students are forced to sleep in halls,” said Gafane.

NSFAS said in a statement that it had advanced an upfront payment to both the universities and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

“The NSFAS received 1 936 330 bursary applications (as of February 16, 2024) and applications closed on February 15, 2024. Of the 1 936 330 applications received, 1 000 389 are provisionally funded, 395 265 are awaiting evaluations, 80 111 have been withdrawn by the student, 141 886 are in progress and 136 558 applications are on the ‘not-started’ status as applicants only created profiles and did not submit applications.”

NSFAS said 124 918 applications were rejected and 1 258 appeals had been lodged thus far.

“For universities, NSFAS disbursed R2.8 billion in January 2024. A total of R580.1 million was paid to TVET colleges as tuition upfront in January 2024.

“An additional R1bn is earmarked for three months’ worth of allowances to be paid based on registration from the January-March period. All these upfront payments are meant to enable institutions to register all NSFAS approved students for the academic year 2024,” the statement said.

The Mercury