Students will also get a R275 monthly stipend for personal care from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas). Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - They get free tuition, free accommodation, free meals and free books. Now students will also get a R275 monthly stipend for personal care from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Nsfas spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said they would be introducing a “new allowance” to more than 800000 students for their incidental or personal care needs. “This is in an effort to improve the quality of life for students,” Mamabolo said.

“The introduction of the personal allowance came as a result of numerous engagements with various stakeholders and students on how Nsfas could best assist in issues of personal necessities,” Mamabolo said.

Nsfas administrator Randall Carolissen said the allowance will be added to the current student allowances.

He said the aim of Nsfas is to provide funding to poor and working-class students, but “this cannot be realised without addressing some of the socio-economic issues, which have a direct impact on student life”.

“This allowance will cover some of students’ toiletry and sanitary needs in order to ensure they are always in class.” Carolissen said young women are often forced to miss classes because they lack sanitary towels.

He said it's against the government policy for institutions to refuse Nsfas- approved students registration. “Nsfas has a long-standing agreement with universities, therefore Nsfas-funded students should not be asked to pay registration fees as this is covered as part of their bursary,” Carolissen said.

The South African Union of Students (Saus) agreed with Nsfas on the R275 personal care allowance, but Saus secretary general Lwandile Mtsolo said they believe the “money is not enough”.

He said the current standardised meal allowance is lower than at most universities.

“We do not agree with the standardised allowance of R1350. We want R2300 for our students,” Mtsolo said, adding that their union was still discussing the matter.

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) SRC chairperson, Thobile Tshefu of Athlone campus, said it was a great initiative by Nsfas but felt that it was unnecessary.

Tshefu said CPUT students were already receiving a R1000 meal allowance plus R500 cash a month and a R5000 book allowance.

“Why can’t Nsfas invest the money for their staff and boost their services for the students to receive quicker responses from them?”

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Cape Argus