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NSFAS and Nelson Mandela University play the blame game

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But aid scheme hopes to finalise disbursements this week

Photo of protesters
Nelson Mandela University students disrupted classes for several days last week, demanding the speedy payment of their National Student Financial Aid Scheme fees. Photo: Joseph Chirume
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Last week students at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) protested over not having received the funds they need for textbooks and meals. They also complained about safety, transport and the state of their accommodation. South African Student Congress (SASCO) complained of the “atrocious conditions in which we find ourselves as far as financial aid is concerned”.

But the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) issued a statement on 2 May expressing “concern and alarm” over protests by students at NMU. It said it had already paid substantial amounts of money to the university for disbursement to students.

Spokesperson, Kagisho Mamabolo, said in the statement, “NSFAS is not able to pay any monies without both the institution and the students meeting our requirements. Our process of allowance disbursement is that institutions submit student registration data to us.”

Mamabolo said NSFAS had recently made three payments to NMU for disbursement to students – two of over R88 million and a third of R77 million on 2 May. There were also payments for first time entrants students and returning students. Payments were also made “for books, meal and travel allowances of all the registration data we received from the institution”.

But NMU spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said, “The money that NSFAS paid the university was not meant for food, accommodation and textbooks as demanded by students during the protest action. NSFAS paid the university money for tuition and accommodation only. “

“Student allowances are paid to students by NSFAS via their in-house SBux system, to which the financial aid scheme has very recently started making payments.”

NSFAS also said in its statement: “Our role as NSFAS is to do the necessary checks and verifications before disbursing. If institutions are not able to submit required information to NSFAS on time, this then becomes the main cause of delays in the payment of allowances.”

Mamabolo said NSFAS was “very grateful that finally” it had received the registration data from NMU enabling it to start verifying students who are eligible for the payouts.

NSFAS said “if all goes well” it should be able to complete the disbursement payments by this week.

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