Graduation week at a number of universities has come and gone, but a number of students have not received their qualifications because their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loans have not been paid off. KWAZI DLAMINI spoke to a few students whose road to graduation and possibly even a career have been halted as a result of NSFAS complications.
Sandile Dlaba, 23, student, Howick
In my first year I didn’t get NSFAS, they told me they did not have enough funds to fund me. I accepted that and my family had to borrow money to fund my studies. The following year I got NSFAS, but it came with complications. But it was better than nothing. I think the whole NSFAS system has to change because clearly it’s not working, I can assure you that 90% of the strikes in higher education have something to do with NSFAS. What they are doing to us is not fair because we sign a loan agreement every year, but now we will not get our qualifications.
Yonela Sogiba, 21, student, Mount Ayliff
I think NSFAS has never been fair, but this is too much. How can someone who failed to pay R3, 000 for registration be able to pay R25, 000 of outstanding fees? The only difference between me and a person who stayed at home after grade 12 is that they have no debts this big. The scheme was set up to support financially needy students, but instead, it has brought them debts. The government doesn’t see how serious the issue is; this is a threat to young graduates. The government allocates funds to higher education but they never follow up on how those funds were used. I read an article in a newspaper about a month ago saying funds had been returned unused by NSFAS, meanwhile students were not paid for.
Lwandile Mbiko, 25, unemployed, Umkomaas
I graduated in 2011 but still NSFAS hasn’t settled my debt with the institution and now I cannot find work because I have no qualification to present when applying for a job. They do give us a statement of results but that’s a disadvantage for us if we are competing with people who have got their qualifications with them. I was told to wait for an SMS and I am still waiting. I will wait because I cannot afford to pay the amount of money I owe. I think the system needs to change, it was better when NSFAS had offices within the institutions; it was easy to get answers.
Zizipho Dlamini, 22, student, Mandeni
I will be graduating [soon] but I still owe R 20, 000 so it is impossible that I will get my qualification. I called NSFAS in Cape Town and they told me that they have sorted my things out and they have sent the money to the institution to clear all those debts. But when I went to their offices on campus I was told that what I was told by the Cape Town office is not true. They (the institution office) are still waiting for a list from Cape Town that will come with names of those who will be paid for. It was mid-March when they said that; they said I would sign another form before the start of April but April is nearing the end and NO word from NSFAS. I have stopped going to their offices or calling them because it is a waste of time and airtime – nothing productive comes out of it.
Siyabonga Sibiya, 26, student, Adams
I have not been paid for and I have been getting a lot of messages from loan companies offering me loans and messages telling me to pay my outstanding fees. I don’t understand why students get blacklisted because of this; we as students sign an agreement with NSFAS that they will pay for my studies then I will pay them. The institutions should talk to NSFAS, not the students because of that agreement. Just like when you buy a car, the bank pays the dealer and you pay the bank, why is it different when it comes to students?. They may be proud of putting thousands of students to higher education institutions but what good does that feat bring if those students are left drowning in debts and are threatened to be blacklisted? But that is the struggle of a black child.