NSFAS chaos, delays may leave thousands unfunded

RUCTIONS in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) mean that the annual announcement , which was due on Monday, of how many students will be funded, has been postponed.

The announcement is traditionally made before the publication of matric exam results, but now thousands of university students may find themselves unfunded at the beginning of this academic year.

During the November and December period, NSFAS apparently lost the supporting documents of more than 100 000 students, including those confirming their eligibility for funding.

NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo has denied that the scheme had lost the documents, instead blaming students for not providing the required documents.

Ishmael Mnisi, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande’s spokesperson, said Nzimande had decided that, over the next few weeks, he would conduct two media briefings in response to the outcomes of matric results and regarding the state of readiness of NSFAS.

“NSFAS funding is linked to a student both meeting financial requirements for such funding and being registered in an accredited full undergraduate qualification programme at a public university or technical and vocational education and training [TVET] college,” said Mnisi.

“NSFAS is responsible for informing students of their financial eligibility status. Students who have applied for and are offered a placement at a university or TVET college will be able to register. Once they have registered, they will be funded if they are eligible,” he said.

Mamabolo said their system required that applications be accompanied by the correct supporting documents.

“The application system is automated and has no human interference or intervention, so claims that supporting documents of applicants have been lost do not hold water. Applicants have control over their own applications, as well as over the submission of their supporting documents,” he said.

Mamabolo would not confirm nor deny the postponement of the funding eligibility announcement.

He said NSFAS was working closely with the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology “to resolve some of the challenges in the processing and presentation of student funding data”.

However, Molebatsi Tuka, the regional organiser for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union in the Western Cape, said disruptions should be anticipated at universities and TVET colleges.

“NSFAS’s IT system is in limbo. The greatest challenge will be the disadvantaging of poor students. They will suffer and we are likely to see disruptions. The entity is in ICU.” — City Press.