Thousands of students from three Eastern Cape universities may not receive payments from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) this year. According to a report released by NSFAS, this is due to the fact that some students didn’t sign their agreement forms for funding.
Thousands of students from three Eastern Cape universities may not receive payments from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) this year. According to a report released by NSFAS, this is due to the fact that some students didn’t sign their agreement forms for funding. The report released by the funder states that approximately 3,000 students from the Walter Sisulu University (WSU), 400 from the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and 70 students from Rhodes University have not signed their agreements for funding.
As much as NSFAS put the fault on students, student leaders said the new online system used by NSFAS is to be blamed. The secretary of Fort Hare’s East London campus Kwanele Ntantala, said NSFAS is lying.
“NSFAS is not telling the truth about this. Their new online and centralised system is to blame, it has a lot of technicalities and students wait for a very long time to make purchases online. There is no administration problem from our side, and ever since NSFAS decided to change its administration last year, things are not the same,” said Ntantala.
Ntantala also said NSFAS is also lying about the number of students who have not signed at Fort Hare: “Last month there were more than 3,000 students who had not signed their agreement forms, at our institution alone.”
Part of the problem with the system is that students are registered for different courses, than those they are actually doing. Lwandile Sobhili, doing his 2nd year in Social Work at UFH said that under NSFAS, he is registered as a law student and his agreement form came out stating that.
“It is a big frustration, because we apply for NSFAS knowing we cant afford university life. Then when our only hope fails us we cannot do much about it. It was easier when there was a direct NSFAS office on campus,” said Sobhili.
WSU spokesperson, Yonela Tukwayo said that if students lose their funding, they would be expected to pay their outstanding fees, before re-registering in 2018. “This issue might be a financial risk for our institution. Sometimes student debt escalates to more that hundreds of millions. Should this happen it affects our ability to fund the university efficiently,” said Tukwayo.
There are close to 20,000 students funded by NSFAS at the university. In 2016, NSFAS launched a new application system that, requires students to apply for tuition funding using the internet. The purpose of the system is to create a direct relationship between NSFAS and students, from the moment they register up to completion of their studies.
NSFAS’s Kagiso Mamabolo, said they use students’ cellphone numbers to communicate their application results and issue them with a one-time pin (OTP), which is used to sign agreement forms and start purchasing. “If a student loses or changes his/her cellphone number, this means they will not receive the pin to sign their forms,” he said.
Mambolo said that as NSFAS they will send their members to the affected institutions to resolve the matter, and make sure agreement forms are signed.