Nsfas Reportedly Spent R12 Billion On Student Accommodation

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Nsfas has reportedly spent over R1 billion on student accommodation, but many students have been living in unfavourable housing conditions that are taking forever to be resolved and improved. The government bursary scheme now plans on correcting a few issues, including how the money is to be spent.


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CEO of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas), Andile Nongogo, says Nsfas spends a significant amount of money on student accommodation and should therefore have a significant influence on how that money is spent.  

Therefore, Nsfas has decided to take a proactive role in regards to student accommodation for students funded by the bursary scheme.

Nongogo said this would be done through the scheme’s administration of the entire student accommodation approach, as well as increasing student accommodation capacity for Nsfas beneficiaries.

"Last year, we spent approximately 12 billion [Rand] on student accommodation, yet we had no say in costings and we were not part of the process of accrediting accommodation. The decision was made for Nsfas to be fully involved in the process to manage costs and prevent susceptible fraudulent instances”, said the CEO.

Accommodation is a major concern for students who are Nsfas beneficiaries, as there is a frequent struggle to secure a place at campus or private residence's, due to the common shortages of university accommodation.

In order to curve some of the difficulties students face when trying to find accommodation, Nsfas is in the process of creating a "Student Accommodation Portal."

The portal will reportedly allow the accreditation of accommodation providers, grading of the proposed accommodation, assigning the cost-based grading, and allocating accommodation to students.

Additionally, students will be able to log queries on the portal related to their allocated accommodation, such as maintenance and relocation requests. This process will apply to both privately and institution-owned accommodation. 

The creation of this Portal would be to ensure that places of residences meet the requirements to properly be accredited by deploying a team to assess the state of accommodation registered on the portal.

“As part of the consultative process, Nsfas held a student accommodation summit in June 2022 and Public, Private Partnerships (PPPs) on student accommodation provision was one of the topics that took Centre stage,” he stressed.

Nsfas will provide accommodation funds based on the grading system residences would have to undergo. This process will also allow Nsfas to determine and decide what it is prepared to pay, thus making savings in the process. Nsfas will work with DHET and DBSA (as it has a model to determine the cost) in assigning costs to grades.

Although students may find success when it comes to finding and securing accommodation, the living conditions make the experience unbearable.

The University of Zululand (UniZulu) serves as one such example.

Complaints of "inhumane" conditions in reference to student accommodation, struggles to find accommodation, and compromised safety while at off-campus residences have been plaguing the thousands of students at the university.  

The gloomy conditions students find themselves living in have made their university experience unbearable. The students have said that not only was their accommodation uncomfortable, but it has also affected their ability to study.

Most toilets have no doors and electrical wiring hangs loose from the ceiling in the bathrooms. Students have complained that there was no hot water to shower, and that on some weekends, the electricity trips and they were left without power to cook and charge their phones until the Monday, when someone would arrive to fix it.

A room meant for two people now houses six, students do not have desks, have to cook in the rooms because there are no communal kitchens and only have two tiny cabinets to store their groceries and clothes.

On top of the stressful living conditions, students also live in fear of the crime in the area, worried for their safety as they are targeted by criminals. 

“You can’t study here. We just come here to eat and sleep and study at the library. But the library closes at 11pm. And sometimes you want to come back and study, but you find someone chilling with their friends and you can’t chase them away, or you find another person cooking. It’s just chaotic. It’s hell, actually,” said one of the students.

In order to deal with the situation of students who are stranded or otherwise living in unfavourable accommodation conditions, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has taken steps to ensure that the institution builds more residences by undertaking a feasibility study.

Nsfas beneficiaries are often last on institutions' accommodation lists due to the perception of non- or late payment.

To avoid this, a potential beneficiary will be required to indicate whether they are in need of accommodation when they apply for funding. Once registered at an institution, they will be required to upload their proof of registration on the portal and will be assigned accommodation.

This process will consider issues of proximity to campus, especially for first-year students, with the aim of providing certainty to students regarding accommodation, ideally before they leave home in pursuit of their studies.

 

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