Hundreds of thousands of lower-income South African students rely on bursary schemes and financial aid in order to further their education. However, delayed funding decisions from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have placed many of these students in a state of limbo.
Earlier this month, the South Africa Union of Students (SAUS) met with NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to discuss the multiple issues university students continue to face. While the parties involved had come to a solution, almost all of the stakeholders did not follow through on their end of the agreement.
At the beginning of the year, SAUS raised their concerns with NSFAS regarding the planned late release of funding decisions. The parties came to an agreement that these decisions would be made by 6 February 2023. However, NSFAS failed to meet this deadline, leaving over 200 000 students not knowing whether or not they will be receiving funding from the scheme.
This delayed decision now raises more issues. While lower-income students await funding decisions, their university spots are being given up to students who can afford to pay for their own studies.
Over a month after the initially agreed-upon release date of the funding decisions, the organisation has still not concluded their processes. A month into the academic year, the majority of universities have closed their registrations. Students are now left without a university space, despite being accepted into these institutions.
Even if these students are eventually granted funding, they are now weeks behind in their work, leaving them in an even more disadvantaged position.
Earlier this week, the union once again met with the NSFAS board led by the Board Chairperson and CEO, Dr Ernest Khoza and Mr Andile Nongogo. They discussed the most urgent issues students are currently facing, as well as the steps both NSFAS and SAUS will take to respond to the situation.
The union explained that while they understand that many of these issues cannot be resolved immediately, the most urgent issues should be dealt with effectively and decisively.
NSFAS is now working through these appeals and appeal decisions will be released continuously as the scheme works through them. The appeals tribunal, consisting of SAUS representation, will meet on 13 March to adjudicate and finalise the remaining appeals.