Calls To Suspend NSFAS Accommodation Pilot

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The student accommodation pilot programme launched by NSFAS is aimed at ensuring students are provided with accommodation that is conducive for learning. However, alarms bells are being raised regarding the administration of the pilot programme. 

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The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education to urgently intervene in the student accommodation pilot currently being implemented at higher education institutions. 

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) launched the student accommodation pilot programme. the programme is aimed at ensuring that student accommodation service providers deliver accommodation that is accessible, decent, safe, and academically conducive for all students.

NSFAS believes the implementation of the accommodation pilot is a significant step in enhancing and improving the student accommodation landscape in 17 Universities and 23 TVET Colleges for the upcoming 2024 academic year. 

Rudie Heyneke, Head of Investigations at OUTA says there are allegations of widespread corruption within NSFAS. They insist that Minister Blade Nzimande should step aside while an independent investigation is conducted to address these allegations.

OUTA believes the issue lies in NSFAS's decision to take control of student accommodation accreditation, a move that has led to significant delays and uncertainty. They say thousands of students are now at risk of being left without accommodation, with reports emerging of students resorting to sleeping on the streets due to NSFAS's failure to approve accommodation on time.

We are aware of students in Cape Town who have been spending the last two weeks sleeping on the streets since the NSFAS accommodation portal won’t allow them access to look for available accommodation. Landlords, in turn, are not allowed to give students access to accommodation without pre-approval by NSFAS

OUTA says that NSFAS's pilot project on student accommodation has failed to deliver results, with the accreditation process moving at an extremely slow pace and the accommodation portal inaccessible to students in need. 

Heyneke stresses the importance of transparency from NSFAS regarding the number and location of accredited beds, as well as the agreements with accommodation owners.

NSFAS themselves told Parliament in October last year that they need accommodation for at least 397,000 students at institutions countrywide…We want them to answer a few very basic questions which they seemed to avoid so far. 

The organisation is calling for NSFAS to halt its pilot project until a thorough analysis is conducted and the issues are addressed. Heyneke warns that there could be dire consequences if action is not taken promptly and is urging NSFAS to prioritise the welfare of students and restore trust in the financial aid scheme.

At this stage, the only logical decision would be for NSFAS management to stop the pilot project before this becomes a full-blown accommodation crisis that can easily spill over into student protests.

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