SA book sellers blames NSFAS for half a billion rand losses

JOHANNESBURG  - A group of South African textbook sellers and publishers on Thursday, complained that changes to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) buying rules have so far cost them as much as half a billion rand.

South African Booksellers Association (SABA) and the Publishers Association of South Africa (PASA) said the rules changed in January. 

"New figures compiled by the Alliance for Academic Success (ASS) show that since NSFAS moved from a voucher to a cash system, sales at academic booksellers have dropped by R540 million compared to the previous year," said the association of role players in the academic publishing and book-selling sector. 

NSFAS introduced the cash-for-books policy book whereas previously the R5,000 book allowance was ring fenced and could only be spent on learning materials. 

One of he reasons for scrapping the book vouchers scheme at tertiary institutions was that some students were trading book vouchers for cash resulting in the rise of scams on campuses.

“The allowances are now being paid directly to students’ bank accounts as cash, which many students are not spending on academic materials as intended,” said ASS

The association also noted that book sales have dropped by 40% across the academic book-selling industry, and by nearly 91% at some stores. 

They further highlighted that 40 - 70 stores are at risk of closure around the country, with hundreds of jobs on the line. 

“It is especially small- to medium-sized entrepreneurs that are feeling the brunt of the NSFAS shift to cash,” said ASS.

“Not only has revenue been affected, but we have no clarity on the official policy for next year.”

ASS said it has written to Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel to seek a solution.

- African News Agency (ANA)