NSFAS Issues Persist As Students March In Western Cape

The Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command (EFFSC) marched on Wednesday on issues relating to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAs). They were joined by the South Africa Union of Students and the South African Students Congress. The Western Cape branch of the EFFSC hosted the march. It was led by student representatives from Cape Peninsula University of Technology, University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape amongst others.

In a statement released by the student command on June 18, the Western Cape organisation said its counterpart in the Free State requested help highlighting issues faced by students, including late funding disbursements, clearances of historical debt, students still waiting for appeals, and neglecting of accomodation.

Sinawo Thambo, chairperson for the EFFSC Western Cape said there has been an inconsistency with how Nsfas responds to universities depending on whether they are historically black institutions. He said: “Wits and UCT don’t seem to be facing the same problems like historically black institutions.”

Thambo said they want Nsfas to stop giving students vouchers instead of money being paid directly into their account. Nsfas had promised to stop that system but it doesn’t seem to have materialised.

“There is a general and growing degeneration within the National Student Financial Aid Scheme,” he said in the statement.

In January 2019, the EFFSC called for the scheme to be scrapped. The EFFSC then-president Peter Phuti Keetse said they want a better model of rolling out funding funds to students either centrally from the government or at a campus level. “Students are still getting messages asking for money and being blacklisted. We can’t be charged because we want to accumulate knowledge,” he said.

The EFFSC-led Student Representative Council (SRC) approached the EFFSC in the Western Cape about these issues. They called for solidarity from universities from the Western Cape for the issues being faced.

They decided to hold a march in the Western Cape because the NSFAs offices are in the Western Cape province. Various SRC representatives and students from the Western Cape gathered at the Kenilworth Police Station. From there they marched to the Nsfas headquarters.

University of Western Cape SRC president Azania Tyhali said during the march: “There is no such thing as a free education,” adding that students still want to see free education being implemented.

Tyhali said the march was not just to address Nsfas but also the treasury of the country saying “they must discuss how to give students free education.”

Tyhali said while the State of the Nation will be given on June 20, there will be no budget to discuss the “funding of students”.

A memorandum of demands was handed over to the financial aid scheme. Administrator Randoll Carollisen accepted the memorandum. The scheme has been given seven days to respond to the demands.

Nsfas confirmed to The Daily Vox that Dr. Carolissen acknowledged the issues raised by the students, and reiterated that he will work with the student leaders to ensure that the 2% of the student population that is still unresolved is prioritised.

The financial aid scheme has long been struggling with the demands of the free higher education sector. The system was already burdened before former president Jacob Zuma announced that there would be free education for all. The system has been struggling to dispense free education as well as deal with the backlog of funding from before 2017.

The aid scheme admitted that they still had many funding issues to sort out from the 2017/2018 academic year.

Nsfas spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo told The Daily Vox that currently Nsfas administers the student funding based on government policy. “The rules and guidelines for the administration of the subsidised higher education funding are entrenched within the published guidelines for both the TVET and University sector, which makes provisions for the issues raised by the students,” said Mamabolo.

In June 2019, the Durban University of Technology was hit by student protests due to the delayed payments from Nsfas. The clashes have led to the suspension of the student representative council president Sesiyanda Godlimpi and six other students.

Earlier in 2019, many universities around South Africa were hit with protests. These included Wits University, University of Johannesburg, and several campuses in KwaZulu Natal. While there were many concerns raised, one of the main concerns was the late payment of Nsfas funding to students.

Featured image by Lizeka Maduna