Minister Gives NSFAS A Deadline To Deal With NSFAS Allowance Issues

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Despite calls from students, NSFAS will continue with the implementation of the direct allowances payment system. The higher education minister has given a deadline to NSFAS to resolve challenges related to the payment system.


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Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande has given the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) two weeks to provide their plan to resolve NSFAS allowance payment challenges. 

NSFAS provided comprehensive bursaries to South African students from poor and working-class households. Apart from covering a student's tuition and registration fees, NSFAS bursaries also provide students with several allowances. 

NSFAS allowances allow financially vulnerable students to purchase food, living materials and pay for accommodation while they pursue their studies. In 2022, NSFAS announced it would pay these allowances directly to students. 

Previously, NSFAS would pay the allowances to institutions which would then distribute allowances to students. Some institutions hired service providers to handle the disbursement of allowances. This would all change with the introduction of the NSFAS bank account. 

Initially introduced at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, the direct banking system was expanded to include universities in 2023.

Upon its introduction, NSFAS proclaimed that the system would give them control over when payments are made to students and also provides students with certainty that payments will be made. However, this has not been the case for all funded students. 

Students have protested and marched against the new system, highlighting several challenges including exorbitant bank charges, missing payments and difficulty with the onboarding process. 

Nzimande has given the NSFAS board until 30 August to reveal their plan to resolve the above-mentioned issues related to the direct payment of allowances. 

Related Article: How To Login To MyNsfas Student Portal

Despite students' opposition to the direct payment system, Nzimande is adamant the system will continue to be implemented. 

The Minister also noted the decision of NSFAS’ board to place Chief Executive Officer Andile Nongogo on leave of absence while they investigate corruption allegations surrounding the appointment of service providers to manage the direct payment of NSFAS allowances. 

Notwithstanding the current challenges, the minister is of the view that the direct payment solution is a necessary measure to reduce instances of unauthorised access to beneficiaries’ allowances, payment of ghost students, inconsistencies and delayed payments of allowances.

The minister reminded stakeholders that NSFAS received R47 billion to provide comprehensive bursaries to more than a million deserving students. These bursaries include the full tuition fee and accommodation limited to R45 000. 

The accommodation cap of R45 000 per annum was introduced by the government to prevent profiteering and price collusion by private accommodation providers. However, the cap’s introduction has sparked concern as many students are being charged rent over the amount provided by NSFAS. 

Students Protest NSFAS Allowance Payment System 

Student leaders marched to parliament regarding several NSFAS-related issues including the NSFAS accommodation cap, bank charges for the NSFAS bank account, the 60 credit policy and delayed NSFAS appeal decisions.

Their memorandum of demands addressed to the Minister and the Parliamentary Committee on Higher Education calls for greater transparency about SRC consultations, decentralisation of NSFAS for swift solutions, immediate review of student defunding policies, removal of the accommodation cap, support for the "missing middle" students, removal of the 60-credit policy, consistency in funding criteria, and rejection of the NSFAS Direct Payments system.

 

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