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Minister Gives NSFAS Deadline to Resolve Allowance Payment Issues



Minister Gives NSFAS Deadline to Resolve Allowance Payment Issues

Minister Gives NSFAS Deadline to Resolve Allowance Payment Issues. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has been directed by the Higher Education Minister to address challenges concerning the payment of allowances. Despite student protests, NSFAS will persist with the implementation of the direct allowance payment system.

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Minister Ultimatum to NSFAS

Minister Blade Nzimande, responsible for Higher Education and Training, has issued a two-week deadline to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to present a plan for resolving the obstacles related to the payment of allowances.

NSFAS Bursaries and Allowances

NSFAS is known for its comprehensive bursaries, which are designed to assist financially disadvantaged South African students from lower-income households. These bursaries extend beyond covering tuition and registration fees, providing additional allowances to support students.

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Direct Allowance Payment: A Shift in Approach

In the year 2022, NSFAS made the significant decision to transition from disbursing allowances to institutions, opting instead to directly transfer these funds to students. This change marked a departure from the previous method where institutions would oversee the distribution of allowances, sometimes employing external service providers to manage the process. The introduction of the NSFAS bank account was central to this shift.

Challenges and Controversies Surrounding the New System

While the direct payment system was introduced with the intention of streamlining payments and ensuring consistency, not all funded students have experienced its benefits. Students have raised concerns, which have culminated in protests. Challenges include high bank charges, instances of missing payments, and difficulties during the onboarding process.

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Minister’s Demand: A Concrete Plan for Resolution

In response to the growing issues, Minister Nzimande has directed the NSFAS board to provide a comprehensive plan by 30 August that outlines steps to address the aforementioned problems linked to the direct payment of allowances.

Commitment to the Direct Payment System

Despite the opposition from students, Minister Nzimande has remained steadfast in his determination to uphold the direct payment system, highlighting its potential to curb unauthorized access to beneficiary allowances, eliminate ghost students, rectify inconsistencies, and expedite allowance payments.

Investigating Corruption Allegations and NSFAS Leadership

The minister also acknowledged the NSFAS board’s decision to place CEO Andile Nongogo on a leave of absence amid investigations into allegations of corruption pertaining to the appointment of service providers for the management of direct allowance payments.

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NSFAS’s Financial Allocation and Concerns Over Accommodation Cap

Minister Nzimande reminded stakeholders that NSFAS received R47 billion to offer comprehensive bursaries to over a million deserving students. Notably, an annual cap of R45,000 for accommodation expenses was imposed to prevent exploitation by private accommodation providers. Nevertheless, this cap has spurred concerns as some students are being charged rents exceeding the NSFAS-provided amount.

Student Protests and Demands

Student leaders have taken to the streets to voice their grievances regarding various NSFAS-related issues. Their demands, outlined in a memorandum addressed to the Minister and the Parliamentary Committee on Higher Education, include increased transparency in Student Representative Council (SRC) consultations, decentralization of NSFAS for swifter solutions, revisiting student defunding policies, abolishing the accommodation cap, support for “missing middle” students, the removal of the 60-credit policy, uniform funding criteria, and the rejection of the NSFAS Direct Payments system.

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