The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) is a lifeline for many of South Africa's students who are hoping to attend university or college, but can't afford to do so.
Thousands of students rely on bursaries from the scheme to fund their higher education journey. The comprehensive bursaries provided by Nsfas pay funded students' tuition fees, transport costs, education material costs and grocery costs.
Nsfas ushered in a few changes throughout last year, with current changes to student accommodation and placements soon taking effect.
The government bursary scheme also provides an accommodation allowance to those who are funded through the scheme; this ensures that students can live closer to the university or college where they are studying.
Without the accommodation allowances, many students who live far from the institution they are enrolled at may not be able to attend their classes regularly.
The need for accommodation by students has also resulted in the creation and establishment of new accommodation facilities. However, not all of these accommodation facilities (new and old) are conducive to studying and may not be appropriate for students to reside in.
In an effort to ensure students have accommodation that is conducive to learning, Nsfas has launched a portal which allows accommodation providers to be considered for Nsfas funded students.
Accommodation providers can now register and load their accommodation facilities on the Nsfas student accommodation portal to be considered for beneficiaries.
Once signed in, accommodation providers will be able to list their properties by providing their property names, location and images. Nsfas will then contact them and send a panel of experts to accredit and grade the properties to ensure that they are suitable for student living.
For accommodation providers to get started, an account on the portal's platform would need to be created.
Accommodation providers would need to fill in the name of their accommodation, the province they are located in, the university/universities they'll be catering to, as well as contact information such as a phone number and email address.
On the portal, students can also make an account/profile for themselves and simply search for their desired accommodation within the areas they are looking for. Applying to the accommodation of their choice can also directly be done on the portal's platform.
Although NSFAS is heavily relied on, the financial aid provider has not always been consistent in the way it operates, leaving many students feeling frustrated, especially when it comes to securing their accommodation as well as receiving their allowances on time.
Finding and securing accommodation is one of the students' many major concerns as beneficiaries, particularly because there is a frequent struggle to secure a place at campus or private residences, due to the common shortages of university accommodation.