Government Criticized For Lack Of Support For Missing Middle Students


The latest NSFAS corruption saga continues, with the EFF Student Command now joining the conversation. The Student Command has heavily criticized the Higher Education Sector and Minister Blade Nzimande. 



The Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) has called out the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), as well as Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, for the "stubborn corruption" and continuous exclusion of missing middle students in higher education. 

Recent revelations of corruption within the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have come to light as a result of an investigation conducted by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

The SIU made the discovery of fraud within NSFAS, due to students receiving funding from the scheme, despite not meeting the eligibility requirements set out before applying.

Around 40 000 students across the country at various institutions of higher learning have reportedly been found to have lied on their NSFAS applications, stating that their family household income was less than the R350 000 threshold, when this is not actually the reality.

Nearly R5 million was uncovered by the SIU during its investigation. 

The EFFSC has welcomed the SIU's discovery in the wrongful allocations of NSFAS funds, but also disapproves of the current income threshold stipulated by NSFAS, as its leaves behind missing middle students.

In a statement, the EFFSC said: 

Whilst there may be many families who fall below this threshold, many more are left behind and failed by this arbitrary funding model of the government 

The EFFSC added that corruption within the Higher Education Sector is only growing and becoming worse under Minister Blade Nzimande. 

There is no doubt that corruption in Higher Education is becoming more and more visible and brazen under the leadership of Minister Nzimande. If it is not the student accommodation mafia, it is NSFAS syndicates who pay out allowances to ghost students and ghost bank accounts.

In 2021, it was revealed that thousands of "ghost students" were beneficiaries of NSFAS, which frustrated many, as legitimate beneficiaries were stuck in limbo while waiting for their allowances to be deposited.

Carte Blanche reported that only 40% of 440 000 irregular records were checked and that NSFAS didn't even know if the students were real. The report said that these were students that don't exist but are being paid; i.e. "ghosts". 

The EFFSC also said that the SIU's investigation, and the results of that investigation, is a testament to the "narrow and scatter-brained" ANC government that has little understanding and appreciation of the funding crisis in South Africa. 

It lies, steals and claims easy victories, even to the detriment of the people and families it claims to fight for." 

At the time of the SIU's discovery, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) publicly opposed any legal repercussions for the students found to be guilty of defrauding NSFAS, stating that many probably fall under the missing middle, and did not commit fraud for waste or greed. 

The Student Union stated: 

The reality is that the funds were not sought for squander but to provide these students their Constitutional right to education. They committed an unlawful error which was meant to afford them an education that would afford them an honest living, which would redeem them from the perilous clutches of poverty.

While the Union feels that the implicated students shouldn't be criminalised, and should instead work with NSFAS to pay back the funds in installments that are "reasonably affordable" for them, it feels the opposite for the officials supposedly involved, stating that "heads must roll." 

Like the EFFSC, the Student Union has also criticized the student funding model that is currently in place, saying that the outcomes of the SIU's investigation are largely attributed to the "inefficient and simply ineffective student funding model for the poor and working class," which excludes missing middle students from accessing higher education.


Suggested Article:

NSFAS funds.

After the recent discovery of R5 million in wrongfully allocated NSFAS funds, one of South Africa's public universities has returned just over R300 million to the bursary scheme. The investigation into NSFAS kicked off last year and is still ongoing.




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