The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is once again the cause of protest action at several public higher education institutions. This time, it is after they introduced a new payment system that is seeing payment delays and resulting in students facing exorbitant bank charges on their already insufficient funds.
Recent Challenges With NSFAS
Since the implementation of this new payment system, thousands of students have not been receiving their monthly NSFAS allowances on time, and are having to pay extremely high bank charges each time they make a withdrawal, while others have been immediately defunded.
This bank fee increases once the student has exceeded their limit of swipes and withdrawals. It is reported that 15% of students’ allowances are currently going towards these bank charges.
While it is the service providers charging these amounts and not NSFAS, people are arguing that NSFAS should be paying these charges and not the already disadvantaged students.
Additionally, students should have received their July allowances on the first of the month, however, almost two weeks in and just under 70% of NSFAS-funded students allegedly have yet to receive their payments.
NSFAS introduced this new system as a way to ensure accountability regarding student allowances and establish a seamless method of transferring the funds to students. Previously, NSFAS would pay the institutions which would then disburse the funds.
Here's What Unisa Has Said
The University of South Africa (Unisa) has released a statement in response to the recent protests and challenges students are experiencing with the new system. Discussions are currently ongoing between NSFAS, universities and relevant stakeholders to reach a solution.
Unisa says that they have acknowledged these challenges and are currently exploring ways to intervene.
The university has urged its students to follow through with the onboarding process which will allow them to access their NSFAS allowances. They can complete this process via the NSFAS website.
What NSFAS Has Said
NSFAS has stated that they will be investigating the situation and would do the following:
- The situation is being looked into and if the students’ allegations are found to be true, appropriate action will be taken
- Service providers will be instructed to increase their physical presence at tertiary institutions so that students can be responded to directly
- Students are to be instructed on how they can access their funds immediately and without delays
- There will be a three-way meeting between student leaders, NSFAS management and the service providers to deal with the issues
Amidst these ongoing challenges with the country’s largest bursary organisation, students are beginning to lose faith in the scheme that they have no choice but to depend on.