Unisa SRC president Nkosinathi Mabilane says students wanted Nsfas, but the administration of the programme has been a failure.

The South Africa National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) that offers hope for financially strapped students to study has become the reason why thousands of students will not be able to study.

According to University of South Africa (Unisa) student representative council (SRC) president Nkosinathi Mabilane, Nsfas is a system that students wanted and desired.

“It’s the best in the world, but the challenge is based on the administration of the institution and how the government rolls out the policies and schemes.

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“If a scheme can fund 1.1 million students, it tells you it can roll out free education. But the challenge is the political will and the lack of proper administration from the sector,” he said.

Mabilane said the minister and the department of higher education had failed students.

“At Unisa alone, we have about 33 000 students who were defunded by Nsfas early last year.

“These students registered and Nsfas paid. But because of its own challenges, it released some of the students who were not eligible for the funding and withdrew funding.”

Mabilane said a university that cared about its students couldn’t just deregister students. He said an agreement was then reached that saw many of these students writing exams and passing.

“Now these students don’t have money or funding to register for the new year because last year’s debt is owed to the university.

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“The students did not foresee Nsfas pulling out after registration and leaving them with the debt.” Mabilane said the process of appealing the status with Nsfas was a mess.

“Then you are competing with new matriculants who are now also applying for Nsfas,” he said. Mabilane said it wasn’t the students’ fault they were deregistered from the fund.

“If they are passing and they qualify to come back, let’s try and get them back because they want to study. They are eager to learn and become better citizens in society,” he said.

Mabilane said those 33 000 students were potential problem-solvers who could create solutions in society.

“It’s extremely discouraging and saddening that young people in this country still have to face such challenges before they enter the education space,” he said.

Mabilane said it was sad that something as basic as education was still not free after 30 years of democracy.

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“The government has missed the opportunity to see that once we get the education system right and the population educated, many of our challenges will be solved,” he said.

“One of the primary roles of education is to teach you to be solutions-driven, not only do you come with problems but you have solutions to those problems.”

Mabilane said students were calling for the eradication of third-party companies (Coinvest) as distributors of allowances to students as this system failed students with late payments and to an extent, non-payments.

North-West University lecturer Dominic Maphaka said South Africa’s youth find themselves in an environment that is constantly frustrating them.

“It is alarming that welfare-recipient students have to battle for the space and funding to study at university. “Due to this kind of atmosphere, the unprivileged majority are likely to be excluded,” he said.

Solidarity Helping Hand executive director Hannes Noëth said that an increase of corruption in the country was stealing the future of SA’s students.


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