24 May 2023
About 100 students from universities across South Africa marched to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) head offices in Cape Town on Wednesday with grievances over funding and a lack of responsiveness by NSFAS.
Some of their placards read, “Kanti Yini inkinga we Blade,” (What is the problem Blade), “Must I pay accommodation with Nyash?” and “My mom was a prostitute, must I resort to it as well?”
The student representative council (SRC) leaders stated: “Our attempts to seek clarity from the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and other key stakeholders have been met with nothing but arrogance and ambiguity, leaving us in a state of disarray… we (SRCs) refuse to remain silent while the dreams and aspirations of the children of the poor and working class are trampled on by an unyielding bureaucracy.”
“The primary focus of our concerns is the fact that the NSFAS issued a directive on 16 November 2022, which seeks to take over the process of distributing allowances from universities, under the disguise of combating rampant corruption, amongst other claims. This direct payment comes as a result of engagements between SAUS, DHET, and NSFAS without the involvement of SRCs,” the statement read.
On Wednesday, University of Cape Town’s SRC president Hlengiwe Dube handed their memo with 16 listed demands to NSFAS’s Chief Financial Officer, Masile Ramorwesi, and spokesperson Slumezi Skosana. They are demanding a response within 48 hours.
Ramorwesi said: “I heard the 16 demands as it was read out. I’m going to take the demands to the NSFAS executives so that they can be given the attention and immediate response. We commit to respond to the issues within the next 48 hours.”
These demands include a call for an immediate end to NSFAS’s direct payment plan and for institutions to continue facilitating payments to students. They also want NSFAS to approve the current appeals applications within the next four weeks; for funding lists to be released immediately; and for the CEO of NSFAS to be fired and for the scheme to be placed under administration.
Mandla Onke Notyawa, SRC president at the University of the Western Cape, said students would intensify their action if the scheme does not respond to their demands within the allocated time.
“Let it be clear that we are against, and we condemn the incompetencies of these NSFAS offices. We are going to go inside as the SRCs to engage so that students are able to leave this gathering with answers,” he said.
Okune April, SRC president at the University of Free State, said: “There are many students who come to me with NSFAS issues. One of the issues that broke my heart is that some landlords have been telling female students that because their NSFAS issues are not solved, they can sleep with them and their rent will be sorted. That is what students are currently subjected to. We want answers now because we have been engaging tirelessly with these people and we are now tired.”