The Student Representative Council (SRC) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) says it is relieved that a series of protests over the sBux voucher system which rocked the institution last year can finally end. This, after the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) announced that it will eradicate the third-party payment system – the root of many protests at higher education institutions over the last few years.
The Nsfas announced earlier this week that it will no longer be using the sBux system to pay out student allowances at universities due to its inconvenience to students. Sbux, a system which was introduced in 2014, is used to issue allowances to eligible students using cellphone vouchers. The system uses vouchers to pay for students’ food, books, accommodation, and travel allowances.
DUT SRC president Sesiyanda Godlimpi said the news came as a relief as concerns over late allowances issuing among students were already mounting.
“This is good news because we’ve been fighting the same struggle over and over again. At least now this means that even if NSFAS doesn’t pay the students on time, the university can disburse students from its own money and the scheme can always reimburse them,” he said.
Since the beginning, some universities have complained that some students wouldn’t get their payouts. At DUT, sBux has been the center of all continuous protests, with students complaining that the system delays payments which leads to some ending up without any meal or accommodation allowances.
Among universities that have been using the system since it was launched is University of South Africa (UNISA), DUT, Venda University, Nelson Mandela University and Sol Plaatje University and technical vocational and educational training (TVET) colleges. After encountering problems with the system including delayed and non-payment of thousands of students, the funding aid has decided to discontinue its use.
Speaking to the Independent Online’s Weekend Argus, NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said the scheme would do away with the system.
“NSFAS wants to eradicate the voucher system that compromises choices for our students and limits their financial planning,” Mamabolo told the Weekend Argus.
Delayed allowances payouts at DUT caused tensions between students and the 2017 SRC, which saw violent protests erupt, rubber bullets and stun grenades fly.
Nelson Mandela University also went through a period of disruptions in 2017 when students protested over delayed payments.
Nsfas’ decision will eliminate the number of students who go to bed hungry at residences and will see a decrease in protests Goldimpi said.
“Students allowances in total per year amounts to R18,000 per student when combined. But we have had an issue last year where some students would only receive about R450 and some nothing at all. Most protests were fueled by allowance payouts and now that this system won’t be used anymore, there’s a great chance that demonstrations will also decrease. Unless the management continues to fail students in terms of registration and accommodation,” he said.