The National Student Financial Aid scheme says it has made progress in its efforts to solve funding problems. file image.
- The National Student Financial Aid Program announced that it pays stipends to approximately 75% of the beneficiaries whose enrolment is successfully verified.
- A letter will be sent to all students affected by the recent funding withdrawal regarding the steps they need to follow.
- The SA Student Union demanded that the scheme remove all functional restrictions to allow students to use their bank cards like any other.
As students prepare for their return to various higher education institutions, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it has made progress in its efforts to resolve funding issues and is paying allowances to about 75% of beneficiaries who are successfully validated.
It urges institutions to expedite submission of registration data to ensure all recipients are paid in the next payment round, which is scheduled for July 31.
Funding issues arose when the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) conducted an investigation three months ago and found that the scheme had paid out more than R5 billion, from 2018 to 2021, to students not eligible for grants.
Students who were approved for funding and had been receiving monthly allowances since the start of the year stopped receiving payments in May. Some students said they had lost space in their dormitories. This situation has led to protests over unpaid bonuses, accommodation, enrollment, and safety and security concerns.
In the same month, students from various universities marched to the Cape Town NSFAS head office over funding complaints and new student allowance payment methods.
But after meeting with student bodies to solve a case Funded students and direct payments NSFAS spokesperson Slomezi Skusana said that based on the findings of the auditor general, internal compliance processes and observations of the Special Investigations Unit, the scheme initiated a remedial process in which students found to have been funded on the basis of incorrect information were immediately rescinded.
Skosana said after the scheme met with the South African Students’ Union (SAUS) and direct payment partners in Cape Town on Tuesday, it was agreed that a letter would be sent to all students affected by the recent funding withdrawal explaining the steps they should follow.
We urge all organizations to expedite the submission of 25% of registration data to ensure payees are paid at the next payment due on July 31. The scheme has committed to dispatching teams with capacity within a week of the reopening of institutions to help with the rapid onboarding of students and issuance of physical bank cards.
Over the past few weeks, he said, NSFAS has stepped up its efforts to meaningfully communicate and engage with universities, TVET colleges, and student organizations to ensure that NSFAS beneficiary service is reliable and consistently coordinated.
Skosana added, “This is the first time that an entity has taken such a bold step to be directly responsible for paying student allowances. Like any other new system, this new system is bound to present new and unexpected challenges.”
SAUS spokesperson Asive Dlanjwa said the union had held several meetings with NSFAS and the Ministry of Higher Education in the past five days.
“Among some of the challenges students faced was the lack of ease of use of the payment system and the lack of staff from service providers to help students register and receive their allowances. For this, the plan committed once universities open support and deploy staff to help students register,” said Dlangua.
He said they also agreed with NSFAS to urgently improve the usability of the payment system to allow students to register quickly and ensure the system is standardized for all NSFAS recipients.
“We have demanded that the scheme remove all functional restrictions on the cards, which will allow students to use bank cards like any other,” he said.
He added that SAUS was aware that some universities had intentionally withheld NSFAS student enrollment data.
We have notified Higher Education of the failure of these institutions to submit enrollment data for all students to NSFAS within the next 72 hours. We will take appropriate action against those universities and the department. We’ll even report it to the Parliament Portfolio Committee.
On the issue of direct payments, Skossana said the scheme would not allow a system established 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 true, appropriate action will be taken. Service providers will be directed to increase their physical presence in higher education institutions,” he said.