Members of Parliament have expressed concerns over the delays in the procurement of the laptops for students who are funded by NSFAS.
Mid-July, NSFAS Administrator, Randall Carolissen said that students should expect to receive their devices from September onwards. This delay in the provision is due to following proper procedures in the procurement of devices and that they "unfortunately had to work through a lot of bureaucracies", said Carolissen.
The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology said that it is now four months since Minister Nzimande announced that government will get laptops for all NSFAS students in universities and TVET colleges.
The procurement of laptops for NSFAS students is part of government's strategy to carry out multi-modal remote learning and teaching methodologies in order to save the 2020 academic year, as a result of the country being placed under lockdown.
Portfolio committee Chairperson, Philly Mapulane said, “Students have since been eagerly awaiting the delivery of these laptops, which to date remain undelivered as a result of unnecessary delays in the finalisation of the procurement processes by NSFAS."
“Of great concern, are the allegations brought to the committee, that there is interference with the procurement processes. Attempts are being made to manipulate the procurement process, and to finally get it aborted because certain service providers are not recommended, following supply chain management processes of NSFAS,” said Mapulane in a statement on Monday.
Mapulane said the committee takes these allegations seriously and will be following them up with NSFAS Administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen.
"We would like to appeal to Dr Carolissen not to allow any undue interference with the supply chain management processes of NFSAS, and to speedily conclude this process of the procurement of the laptop,s so that students from poor and working class families can be able to study and be taught remotely. The country cannot afford another COVID-19 procurement scandal," Mapulane said.
In other efforts to provide students with laptops, Gijima, a leading information and communication technology company, has donated 300 laptops to students at the University of Mpumalanga.
Gijima’s chief marketing officer, Roberta Gumede, “Minister Blade Nzimande recently announced that all NSFAS beneficiaries would receive laptops and data to ensure that they can attend online classes during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, many students don’t qualify for the scheme, and just yesterday, NSFAS announced that about 5 000 students will be cut off from the scheme, as a result of certain information from SARS. This means that there will be more students who won’t benefit from it."
Gumede further explained that 60% of students are not funded by NSFAS and that many students still struggle to fund their studies. These laptops are therefore being given to support the missing middle. "We believe that education is power, a key to success, a differentiator, a ceiling breaker and unleashes one’s potential to greater heights. And as we hand over these laptops today we would like to help the university breach the gap and assist more students at the University of Mpumalanga, in order to help build more inspiring leaders in our beautiful province," said Gumede.