State of affairs at NSFAS concerning – Committee

Funding scheme must pursue remedial action to refund wrongly defunded students

Higher Education Committee concerned by state of affairs at NSFAS

17 August 2023

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation is greatly concerned about the current state of affairs at the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The committee has noted that NSFAS continues to be embroiled in disputes with students across the higher education sector on issues and allegations relating to the new direct-payment system, including the defunding of students, outstanding appeal responses, non-responsive query system and accommodation accreditation backlogs.

The committee also received a memorandum of demands from a representation of students from the University of Stellenbosch, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of Cape Town and the University of the Western Cape outside Parliament in which students highlighted crippling inefficiencies at NSFAS that have led many students to be defunded.

The committee has been in on-going communication with NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education and Training regarding the above concerns throughout this constituency period. On Thursday, 10 August 2023, some members of the committee met with the department led by the Director General, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, and the Board of NSFAS, led by Mr Ernest Khosa, to establish what is being done to address the above concerns.

The inability for NSFAS to resolve the above matters gravely concerns the committee given the impact it has on students’ academic programme. Inundated with calls and messages from students, parents and concerned citizens, the committee shares the frustrations of affected parties and commits itself to continue representing the interests of the affected.

NSFAS remains a quintessential tool in ensuring that the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality are addressed by ensuring access to education; thus, the optimal functionality of NSFAS is paramount.

The committee had previously heard in a briefing that the direct payment system would ensure that students receive their allowances on time and that no exorbitant bank charges would be incurred by students. The committee is thus disappointed and concerned by the systemic inefficiencies with the rollout of the new direct payment system and calls on the department to closely monitor the remedies for this problem.

The committee further calls upon NSFAS to move with speed and find remedial action to resolve cases where deserving students who have been erroneously defunded are refunded.

The committee commends NSFAS for its massive growth in the number of students funded by the scheme. However, it also emphasises that the scheme must strengthen its administration and management capacity. The Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, and NSFAS Board must with outmost urgency stabilise and strengthen the leadership and work force of NSFAS.

The committee will continue to engage with NSFAS and the department as part of its oversight responsibilities.

Issued by Jabulani Majozi, Media Officer, Parliament, 17 August 2023