Students at two Cape Town-based universities who are beneficiaries of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) say that their situation has not improved despite the looming year-end exams. The students who spoke to Elitsha pointed out issues of delays in payment, unreliability of the service providers and exorbitant bank fees. Last month, students from the Western Cape’s three universities marched to parliament raising the same concerns.
Nsfas introduced new payment methods to universities around the country. The payments are now made through no-name companies TeneTech, Norracco, eZaga and Coinvest Africa. An investigative report, compiled by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), found that of the 20 mandatory requirements for financial service providers, the four appointed by Nsfas to disburse funds only met five.
A Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) student, Minentle Mkuzo, says that she has not received her monthly allowance on time since Nsfas partnered with Tenet. “Tenet is not consistent and reliable; they do not stick to one specific date for the payouts. In this month of September, they delayed our allowances until the 5th, an inconvenience for me because I had already run out of groceries.”
A CPUT student, Luvo Mlilwana, who has not received his monthly allowances for 2023 yet, said, “People need to understand that by getting Nsfas default means you are not financially coping. Delays in getting allowance means unplanned debts and missing classes from time to time. You cannot concentrate as a student in class without a meal and you can’t get to class without transport fare especially for me who stays in the township.”
Another student, Selina Ndlebe, who has not received her allowance said that it is very difficult to focus on her studies because study materials need money, which she does not have. She said she is not receiving any support from the university.
The CPUT SRC president, Arthur Mpfunzeni Ramano, said that they marched to parliament and to the Nsfas offices. “We had a number of meetings, where we also met with the CEO of Nsfas before he was suspended, [and] with our vice chancellor to address this issue; none of them has responded to us.
“It is now September we are about to write our final exams and none of our students have received any communication from Nsfas. How do they think they cope? This is not a normal situation, this is an external matter not internal,” the SRC president said. There are many issues with the new direct payment method, the fact that students cannot withdraw money on weekends or access the app. Ramano said they did not really get an explanation of how the new payment method would operate.
“I would urge students to write to Nsfas or whatever the case may be. I can give them advice but what are they going to do after? In fact, we don’t want Nsfas we actually want free education. As the EFF Student Command we care more about free education. Our manifesto speaks about free, quality decolonised education,” said Ramano.
It turns out it is not only CPUT students facing these issues. University of the Western Cape (UWC) students are also not happy with Norracco. “I am fed up with Norracco; their immediate payment option is a scam because even if you choose immediate payment, the money will reflect only after 48 hours. Norracco’s charges are the worst, they even charge you when making immediate payment,” said Winky Mqikilela, a UWC student.