Since the beginning of the year, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), has received backlash and criticism for the implementation of the R45 000 accommodation cap. This has resulted in a countrywide accommodation crisis, and the Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) is now calling for the bursary scheme to scrap this cap.
Back in January, NSFAS announced a number of policy changes which included a R45 000 accommodation allowance cap. This cap applied to all funded students regardless of whether they were in university accommodation or private accredited accommodation. However, a shortage of student housing supplied by public universities, left students with no option but to seek out housing from private service providers.
Student housing providers in the private sector are notorious for overcharging students, especially if they know that the government will be covering the costs. This means that thousands of students were unable to find suitable and affordable housing close to campus, leaving them stranded.
While NSFAS says that they have been finding alternative accommodation for these stranded students, the issue of adequate student housing remains.
This accommodation cap has left students homeless and DASO believes that NSFAS is violating their right to housing and education. However, NSFAS reports that extensive research was conducted before making the decision to cap accommodation funding.
DASO has launched an official petition urging the organisation to increase the R45 000 cap for students across South Africa. Students are encouraged to sign this petition to ensure:
- That the accommodation cap will be withdrawn and that this is looked into on a case by case basis
- NSFAS must revise their existing funding model and include missing middle students to minimise financial exclusion
- Policies must be readjusted so that private institutions can enrol more students to address the space concerns at public institutions
- Decentralise NSFAS's functions for administrative purposes
Additionally, the student organisation has also written to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, however they feel as if their pleas were not taken seriously.
DASO will continue to fight until a path that gives power to the students of South Africa is forged, so that no student is left behind.
NSFAS is currently undergoing investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on allegations of corruption and maladministration.
DASO will continue to provide practical solutions to the student accommodation crisis, while petitioning for an overall restructuring of NSFAS.