NSFAS leaves TVET College students in the lurch … again - Delmaine Christians

DA MP says those in rural areas of the NCape unable to access allowances due to technical errors with system

NSFAS leaves TVET College students in the lurch…again

3 June 2020

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbites in English & Afrikaans from Delmaine Christians, MP. 

The Democratic Alliance is calling on the Minister of Higher Education to assist students, particularly those in rural areas of the Northern Cape, who have been unable to access their National Student Financial Aid Scheme's (NSFAS) allowances due to technical errors with the system. This comes as students across the country are preparing to return to college on next week Wednesday, 10 June 2020.

Students complained that although they started receiving notifications on their cell phones from NSFAS last week already, the funds were not available. Error messages (see hereherehere and here ) showed that, while money was available, cash was not available, or that only a small amount, like R10 was available. Some areas have also been found to lack availability of the required merchants like Shoprite and Checkers. Students have thus been unable to access their funds.

During a joint Portfolio and Select Committee meeting on 11 May 2020, the CEO of NSFAS, Dr Carolissen, told Members of Parliament that NSFAS had identified certain TVET colleges that would convert to NSFAS Wallet. These colleges, which include the Rural TVET College in the Northern Cape, would in effect no longer be handling the administration of student allowances. At the time, Carolissen promised that there would be less errors with the NSFAS wallet system.

We are now concerned that this is not the case.

When I called the TVET College and asked them whether they are aware of the issues students are experiencing, they said yes but that they were unable to assist them because they were no longer administering the process and also because NSFAS did not train them or send them any guidelines.

This is unacceptable.

NSFAS has had ICT related problems for a number of years already which they consistently fail to resolve. A case in point was the recently reported incident that saw NSFAS erroneously pay out R2 billion to the wrong students, which they might never be able to recover.

It is high time that systems are prioritised and streamlined, and that staff are properly trained in order to prevent ongoing glitches that have the ability to derail the education of thousands of learners.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced an independent investigation into the National Student Financial Aid Scheme's (NSFAS) systemic glitches that previously sparked riots on campuses. We therefore call on him to ensure that the problems being experienced by our students are urgently resolved.

With only days to go before students must report on campus, in the midst of the already stressful Covid-19 pandemic, they need all the support they can get to ensure a smooth and safe transition back into learning.

Issued by Delmaine ChristiansDA Member of the NCOP Select Committee on Education, 3 June 2020