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Students march to NSFAS offices with list of complaints

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But administrator says the student fee scheme is working much better now

Photo of woman with loudhailer
Azania Tyhali said students living off campus must get meal allowances. Photo: Velani Ludidi
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About 100 students marched to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) headquarters in Wynberg, Cape Town, on Wednesday.

The march was organised by Student Representative Council members from universities and TVETs across the country. Their five demands included meal allowances for students living off campus, the reintroduction of funding which had been withdrawn, faster processing of appeals, the decentralisation of NSFAS and the clearing of historical debt.

Katleho Lechoo from the University of the Free State said off-campus students were the most affected. “Allowances are not paid in time and students depend on NSFAS to buy food and clothes. How can we focus on our studies when the issue of NSFAS is affecting us?”

Azania Tyhali the current SRC president at the University of the Western Cape said the SRCs had agreed on the march. He said they rejected the exclusion from meal allowances of students living off campus. “ A stomach does not change its need for food based on how far it is from the university and therefore we demand that these students receive meals as well.”

NSFAS was placed under administration in August last year by then Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor after thousands of students did not receive their allowances and funding was slow, leading to protests across the country. Randall Carolissen was appointed as the administrator for a one-year period.

Masixole Mlandu from the University of Cape Town said NSFAS worked very well in some universities. “At UCT for example, we have no issue of NSFAS releasing funding late. Why can other universities not enjoy the same treatment?”

“We reject NSFAS, we want free education from Grade R to PhD.”

Carolissen told GroundUp that since he took over there had been changes at the student funding body.

“When I took over, students were prostituting themselves ,some committing suicide due to funding delays, and we have changed that.”

Carolissen said currently only about 5,000 students have not received their allowances. “This is much better compared to last year. R32 billion has already been allocated.”

He said the rule about meal allowances for students off campus had already been scrapped, though students were not yet getting their allowances.

Asked why NSFAS worked better in some institutions, Carolissen said some institutions had enough cash flow to use their own money if there were NSFAS delays, but others did not.

He said he met Minister of Higher Education Blade Ndzimande monthly and would raise policy issues with him.

A previous version of this article said Masixole Mlandu was a member of the SRC at UCT. This has been corrected.

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Letters

Dear Editor

I am very dissapointed in the fact that off-campus students are being treated like garbage. Whereas students living on campus receive meal allowances, unlimited access to wifi, they are not tired from travel and do not have to put their lives in danger travelling to campus.

At campus, students are living their best lives. They get to experience rugby games and gym. While students commuting in and out of campus are excluded from everything. We travel far and often get to campus or back home tired and late. In addition to this, NSFAS has been denying us meal allowances. I don't understand why? We are also hungry. We spend more than R1,000 on transport per month, so there is no change for food.

Some of us do not have a support system at home and are in of assistance from NSFAS. I think it is truly unfair for us not to get meal allowances. We walk on campus pass all resturants and only on campus students can afford to eat there. Why do they hate us? Why are they not caring? A hungry stomach cannot think. They need to be fair and give all students meal allowances. It feels like apartheid all over again. When will things be equal?

They spend enough money paying for accomodation, much more than they spend on traveling allowances yet these students still get meal allowances and traveling students get nothing? Also, people staying 10km from campus recieve the same as those staying 50+ km from campus. How is any of this fair? I am truly dissapointed in my country for allowING this unfair act.