Students marched to NSFAS officers in Cape Town.
Photo: Naila Ibrahim, News24
- NSFAS has initiated a remedial process where students found to be based on incorrect information are immediately cancelled.
- NSFAS said the immediate cancellation of the funding would avoid the wrongful and illegal allocation of funds to those who fall outside their policies.
- The plan said an investigation would be conducted into the complaints regarding direct payments and, where the allegations were proven, appropriate action would be taken.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) met with student bodies to solve the problems of students who had their funding canceled and direct payments.
Last week, News24 reported on students who said they were approved by the program and had been receiving their monthly allowance since the start of the year, but payments stopped in May.
Some students said they lost places in their residences because their funding was canceled.
The NSFAS Higher Education Portfolio Commission warned of its house regulation in May. This followed student protests over unpaid allowances, accommodation, registration, and safety and security concerns.
Students from various universities marched to the NSFAS head office in Cape Town over funding complaints and new student allowance payment methods.
In a joint statement, Students Representative Council (SRC) leaders from Western Cape and Free State Universities said some students had not received funding nearly three months into the academic year, while others had been “wrongfully withdrawn.”
On Monday, NSFAS spokesperson Slomezi Skusana said that based on the findings of the auditor general, internal compliance processes, and observations of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), NSFAS has begun a remedial process where students found to have been funded on the basis of incorrect information were immediately rescinded.
Instant Student Funding Withdrawals are made to avoid wrongful and illegal allocation of funds to those who fall outside the prescription range of our policies. The description of our policies and the law will be implemented firmly and forcefully to avoid, among other things, repeating more than 5 billion riyals wrongly allocated to students since 2016.
Three months ago, an investigation by SIU revealed that NSFAS paid out more than R5 billion, from 2018 to 2021, to students not eligible for grants.
SIU submitted a draft presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) regarding the NSFAS Declaration.
The principal investigator told the panel that 76 institutions, with 4,044 students, did not qualify for grant money from 2018 to 2021.
Gauteng had 16 institutions with 17,788 students, followed by the Western Cape with 10 institutions and 5,481 students, KwaZulu-Natal with 13 institutions and 4,409 students, the Eastern Cape with 12 institutions and 3,842 students, and the Free State with six institutions and 2,688 students. , North West with four institutions and 2,575 students, Limpopo with nine institutions and 2,291 students, Mpumalanga with four institutions and 666 students, and Northern Cape with three institutions with 304 students.
Skosana said they have received complaints that some students have been improperly withdrawn.
“If such cases are true, then it is unfortunate, and a process will immediately begin to investigate these complaints, and if proven otherwise, remedial action will be taken,” Skosana said.
On the issue of direct payments, Skosana said the scheme would not allow a system that had been set up in good faith to become intertwined with activities that defeat the purpose of direct payments.
An investigation will be conducted into these complaints and, if the allegations are proven to be true, appropriate action will be taken. Service providers will be directed to increase their physical presence in higher education institutions. There will be a tripartite meeting between student leaders, NSFAS management and service providers on Tuesday (tomorrow) to settle all relevant matters.
Meanwhile, the South African Students’ Congress (SASCO) said it had become clear that the program was losing its ability to do its duty to help access higher education for the poor and working class.
SASCO President Visinhlanhla Similan said the organization has observed a myriad of critical challenges that threaten to plunge the sector into crisis.
“We are not happy with direct payments because it is clear that these service providers not only lack the capacity required to disperse allocations, they are [also] All of them are seriously ineligible, some of them are corrupt and they charge students exorbitant fees that drain the already inadequate provisions.”
He said Congress has also learned thousands of students have been pulled from funding by NSFAS.
“Our position with respect to these challenges is that we reject an allowance payment system that will not deliver allowances efficiently and on time. We reject an allowance system that is not student friendly or accessible. All students whose money has been withdrawn from the service must be reinstated immediately,” Similan said.