MPs demand fast action to unblock student funding system
The portfolio committee on higher education and training has called on all stakeholders in the higher education sector to work collectively to ensure that student funding disbursement systems are improved.
About 100,000 students who qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in 2018 are yet to receive their allowances. Another 29,473 students had not received their funding for 2017, painting a picture of administrative chaos at the scheme.
The chaos was a major setback for disadvantaged students who depended on NSFAS funding to further their education
"We are concerned about the challenges that had been raised over a period of time with stakeholders resulting from the central applications process and the piloting of the student-centred model‚" said committee chairwoman Connie September.
"The system is designed to benefit students‚ and we expect no less. The delays in payments to institutions should be dealt with expeditiously. We cannot have students waiting for meal and book allowances for longer than five months."
September said the committee agreed with Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor that the NSFAS systems and capacity should be improved so there were no challenges in 2019.
She called on NSFAS to begin the process of redesigning the student-centred funding model so all other stakeholders could make an input.
"These challenges are not insurmountable; they just need a collective effort. The committee welcomes the willingness of the stakeholders to collectively support a process to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in furthering their much-needed education," said September.
The committee said it would invite information from the colleges and universities experiencing challenges with the disbursement of student funds.
"We will also, upon our return to Parliament, ask that the department‚ NSFAS and all other stakeholders account to Parliament on the disbursement of funds‚" September said‚ adding that NSFAS needed to move from Wynberg in Cape Town to a more accessible location.