Students Marched To Parliament To Protest Against New NSFAS Direct Payment System



Students from a number of universities marched to Parliament on Wednesday calling for the end to the new direct banking system implemented by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).



Over the past few months, students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have battled with several issues regarding funding and the distribution of students allowances.

As a result, hundreds of disgruntled students, led by Student Representative Councils (SRCs) from institutions across the Western Cape marched to parliament in Cape Town to hand over a memorandum of demands to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

The memorandum of demands includes a list of demands addressed to the Minister and the Parliamentary Committee on Higher Education and calls for greater transparency with regard to 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.

The memorandum includes non-negotiable requirements for receipt acknowledgment within 24 hours and a response within 7 working days. Failure to meet these demands may lead to intensified efforts against the issues caused by NSFAS.

Why Are Students Protesting?

The march follows series of protest action from a number of institutions across the country this month aimed at numerous issues, but mainly delays in distributing student allowance, a problematic direct payment system and the higher bank charges the new system came with.

In order to make the payment of Nsfas allowances easier and prevent payment delays, the scheme introduced a new direct payment solution through the NSFAS MasterCard.

NSFAS partnered with four banking service providers to bring the new payment solution to students. These service providers include Tenet Technology, Coinvest Africa, Ezaga Holdings and Norraco Corporation.

Some students have Expressed frustration noting that the onboarding process has been everything but ‘seamless’, with some questioning communication around the new system and why it was introduced at universities in the middle of the academic year.

We unequivocally reject the current Direct Payments system, which perpetuates excessive fees. NSFAS must recalibrate its focus onto its core mission.

Exorbitant Bank Charges

Although NSFAS already piloted the direct banking system at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in 2022, the system was only implemented at universities around South Africa a few months ago.

However, since its implementation there have already been a number of complaints about the system, including students not receiving their funds, exorbitant bank charges, glitches, and unauthorised access resulting in loss of funds. 

Rejecting The 60-Credit NSFAS Policy 

Student leaders are also strongly against the implementation of the 60 credit policy. This as they believe it places undue burden on students who are already struggling financially. 

The credit policy states that students who are studying for less than 60-course credits are no longer eligible for accommodation, living and transport allowance. This means that students will have to cover these costs after being approved by NSFAS for the allowances.

It undermines their ability to cover basic living costs, purchase essential learning materials, and maintain their mental and physical well-being.

They added that the removal of the 60-credit policy will be a pivotal step towards ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to succeed academically without compromising their overall quality of life.

Immediate Review To The Defunding Of Student 

Student leaders are also calling for an immediate revision of the NSFAS defunding policy. They explain that numerous deserving students were abruptly defunded from receiving the financial support provided by NSFAS without proper recourse or due process.

This unjust practice not only hampers their academic pursuits but also perpetuates inequality by hindering access to education.

They added that swift revision is paramount to ensure fairness, transparency and equitable opportunities for all students. 

Removal Of The Accommodation Cap 

In 2023, NSFAS announced a cap of R45 000 on the accommodation allowance for NSFAS students whether in University accommodation or accredited private accommodation. Stakeholders noted their concern with the accommodation allowance cap as it could leave students without a place to stay. 

The draconian NSFAS Accommodation cap of this year must crumble without delay. We reject a uniform approach to capping and demand instead a nuanced evaluation for each institution, rooted in its unique context.

Student leaders have called for the department to adopt an approach that accounts for the context of each institution. 

NSFAS Response To Student Concerns

During a press briefing, NSFAS Board Chairperson Ernest Khosa acknowledged that, as with any introduction of new systems, there have been some teething issues and genuine cases of students who have not been able to access their allowances via the new solution.

We have also noted that closer to payment dates, the system experiences technical glitches caused by high internet traffic due to students registering at the same time. Onboarding for TVET college students continues on an ongoing basis as new students enrol.

He said this can be mainly attributed to issues of data integration with institutions and system glitches caused by too many students/traffic seeking to register onto the system at the same time. 

Khosa added, “We have also had reports of students struggling with the authentication process and requiring assistance, hence we swiftly deployed officials across various campuses."

This is a developing story and may be updated to include the latest information.

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Minister discusses direct payment issues

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