DOCUMENTS

NSFAS must explain non-payment to university students – Belinda Bozzoli

DA says 200 000 have been seriously disadvantaged in the first vital weeks of studies due to 'technical problem'

NSFAS must explain non-payment to 200 000 university students

29 March 2017

Yesterday, during an oversight visit to the University of Venda by the Higher Education Portfolio Committee, it was revealed that some 200 000 university students across the country have not yet received their NSFAS grants.

The DA will today write to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee, requesting her to urgently summon the NSFAS Chair, Sizwe Nxasana, to the committee to explain how this crisis unfolded.

Yesterday, the Portfolio Committee could not meet on the campus of the University of Venda due to violent protest, triggered by the delays in the payment of NSFAS grants. These grants, distributed through the “sBux” voucher system, are used by thousands of students all over the country to pay for private accommodation, food, books and travel.

A technical problem in NSFAS’s centralised system apparently led to the inability to make these payments.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of students – many from extremely poor backgrounds – have been seriously disadvantaged in the first vital weeks of their studies. Reports of students going hungry on various campuses are rife.

The Committee also received reports of students on TVET campuses, such as the Sekhukhune TVET College in Groblersdal, dropping out as a result of not being able to pay their expenses. Payment of NSFAS funds in TVETs appears to be both cumbersome and slow as well as insufficient in many respects.

The DA was first alerted to problems with the sBux scheme at the beginning of March at the University of Mpumalanga, where the campus was also closed as a result of protests over the NSFAS delays. Our subsequent letter to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, was never responded to.

The DA believes that this issue has been covered up and that it is only the student protests that has brought it to light.

The DA is extremely concerned about the current state of affairs, especially since this crisis once again affects some of the most vulnerable people in our society – poor young people.

As it stands, there is an entire generation of young people who have been lost because of the poor quality of basic education in South Africa. We cannot allow their opportunity for higher education to also be jeopardised.

We will do everything in our power to try to find out what has led to this crisis and prevent it from escalating.

Issued by Belinda Bozzoli, Shadow Minister of Higher Education, 29 March 2017