What The New NSFAS Administrator Needs To Do

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The appointment of administrator at NSFAS was seen as the first step to resolving the schemes challenges and ensure students receive the funding they deserve. However, a lot of work must be done before NSFAS operates efficiently and effectively. 

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The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was placed under administration after it failed to pay student allowances. Several other factors led to the appointment of an administrator including lack of institutional capacity and the board's failure to implement the recommendation of the Werksmans Report. 

NSFAS comprehensive bursaries and student loans to deserving learners enrolled in approved courses at universities and TVET colleges.The funding not only includes money for tuition and registration fees but also includes several allowances for food, accommodation and learning materials. 

Failure to ensure these allowances make their way to intended beneficiaries causes major challenges for students and even puts intuitions at risk of protests.

Appointment Of NSFAS Administrator

The higher education minister decided to fire the NSFAS board and Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo was appointed as the new Administrator for NSFAS. Nomvalo will oversee the management, and administration of NSFAS for 12 months.

Minister Nzimande is confident that the newly appointed administrator of NSFAS can improve the state of affairs at the scheme over the next twelve months. However, the minister admitted that should it be necessary to extend the administration, they will not hesitate to do so. 

If it is not enough I'm still allowed as a minister to extend the administrator's term by a further 12 months.

Nzimande says the objectives of the administration are clear. This includes ensuring students receive their monthly allowances on time, developing the capacity to address NSFAS shortfalls and evaluating possible changes to the NSFAS Act to improve the scheme's efficacy and efficiency. 

One of the things we have to change… is the composition of the board. I mean NSFAS is a R50 billion operation. We really need a particular calibre of people who must be on the board as of now it's become clear to me that is actually not the case. 

However, the minister adds that the main focus of the administrator is to ensure NSFAS-funded students’ tuition fees and allowances are paid. 

While acknowledging the ongoing challenges at NSFAS, Nzimande believes universities and colleges are not absolved of any responsibility when it comes to the non-payment of NSFAS allowances. 

They explain that institutions are required to submit student data which enables the payment of allowances. When institutions fail to send this information or send incorrect information, allowances payments are not made. However, NSFAS gets the brunt of the blame. 

One of the things I want the administrator to do is to develop an ICT system that will enable the quick sharing of information at the press of a button which will actually go a long way in solving these problems. 

Universities South Africa’s Dr Phethiwe Matutu says the administrator has a huge task on their hands and suggests identifying the key challenges at NSFAS would be an achievement. 

One of the factors that led to the dissolution of the NSFAS board was the failure to implement Werksman's report recommendations, including terminating contracts of irregularly appointed service providers to pay NSFAS allowances.

While the now-dissolved NSFAS board announced their intention to terminate the contracts, these companies still continued to pay allowances for April 2024. 

The question is what has been holding the NSFAS board together with the management from adhering to those recommendations and that is the key question that should be answered.

Impact On Students 

The failure of NSFAS to pay allowances has far-reaching implications for students. This includes putting them at the risk of hunger and homelessness. 

Rise Mzansi's Youth and Student Chapters Convener, Lawrence Manaka says NSFAS has been in a state of collapse for the last several years. This has led students, political parties and civil society groups like the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) to make pleas to the minister. 

OUTA, conducted several investigations on student accommodation, allowance payments and NSFAS operations to demonstrate the dire straits the scheme was in. 

Manaka says the NSFAS challenge was on full display at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) at the beginning of 2024 when the scheme failed to pay accommodation allowances. The failure to pay allowances left hundreds of students without accommodation. 

We had students close to 260 students who were sleeping outside and this was because of NSFAS, NSFAS did not pull through basically just in time for students before they could come back to school

Suggested Article:

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NSFAS not only provides funding to university students but also to students studying at one of the 50 public TVET Colleges. There have been protests about unpaid allowances but the majority of allowances have been paid. This funding also extends to distance learning students.

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