Students reliant on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are facing uncertainty about whether they will be able to register for study this year. AAISHA DADI PATEL asked students protesting at Wits what their experiences have been with the scheme.
NSFAS have accepted me for this year but not my little sister. I donâ€™t know why I got it and she didnâ€™t. My sister has no options â€“ if this falls through, sheâ€™ll have to stay at home. I started my degree late because NSFAS declined me for years. They accepted me when I was 21 though, and Iâ€™m now doing my BA in psychology but Iâ€™m uncertain about whatâ€™s going to happen this year. Iâ€™m so scared.
Iâ€™ll be [doing my] third year BA in psychology this year. I scanned and emailed all my documents and sent it to NSFAS online because of the Post Office strike. They then told me, way after I had sent everything in and after the submission date, and completely out of the blue, that Iâ€™m missing an affidavit. The reason Iâ€™m a NSFAS student is because I canâ€™t even afford a R1,000; where must I get the R4,760 [for registration] from? Iâ€™m really not feeling our freedom right now, I feel so excluded. Thereâ€™s a R100-million that was donated to Wits, why canâ€™t they help us with that?
This should be my third year doing Law. I applied early last year, and they told me I didnâ€™t submit all my documents. By the final deadline I had sent everything in, but I still apparently have outstanding documents. So whatâ€™s going to happen now is that either Iâ€™m going to have to come up with R4,760 [for registration] by Monday, because thatâ€™s when I register, or wait until the end of February for NSFAS to give me a response. So I canâ€™t really call myself a Wits student at the moment.
NSFAS wonâ€™t give me an explanation. Iâ€™m an LLB student: I submitted everything I needed to, to prove I was poor, and they made their decision before even seeing my marks â€“ NSFAS wonâ€™t accept me for this year. Because of that, I donâ€™t have a place to stay too. Iâ€™ll wait for the appeal decision, but weâ€™ll only get the decision on the 16th of February â€“ thatâ€™s supposed to be the first day if campus, but I wonâ€™t even know if Iâ€™ll be registered as a student. So, yeah, I have it hard, but medical students â€“ I feel worse for them. Their academic year has already begun, but they canâ€™t do anything about it: theyâ€™re stuck sitting at home.
It started with NSFAS telling us we have outstanding documents. I was helping a cousin hoping to do his first year this year when he came to submit these on Monday. He was told then at the same time that he could no longer submit, when he came all the way from Limpopo to do so. Iâ€™m also reliant on NSFAS and I am supposed to be doing honours in Dramatic Arts this year but I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™m even going to be a student this year. The 28th is my registration and if I donâ€™t pay the upfront payment (of R4,760) by then, what do I do? I heard that NSFAS students canâ€™t apply for late registration, which is the only other option I could think of. The government needs to do something about this. We are so confused.
* Not her real name.
NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo told The Daily Vox that universities had received confirmation of the 2015 funding allocations on 19 December last year, together with guidelines for the administration of this funding.
â€œWe have further requested each university to indicate, in writing, if they would need NSFAS to make the 30% upfront payment available to assist students who are the poorest of the poor and thus unable to afford registration,â€ he said.
â€œUniversities are then expected to claim against their allocations from NSFAS. If they do not claim, we do not pay. If they claim late, we pay late,â€ he added.
Mambolo said that the NSFAS is continuing to meet with student leadership at all institutions. â€œWe have assigned a team of experts to be at various universities to assist with registration, and we have launched a new model to centralise application of funding and management of funds,â€ he said.