File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town – “As the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), we want to make it clear that we do not want to be directly drawn into the commercial interests of merchants.”

So said NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo, who was responding to the Alliance for Academic Success’s (ASA) concerns over a drop in textbook sales.

ASA, group of individuals and entities within the academic book supply industry, including the SA Booksellers Association and the Publishers Association of SA, this week attributed a decline in textbook sales to NSFAS changing the manner in which the student book allowance is distributed - from a ring-fenced system to a direct cash transfer.

It said book unit sales had dropped between an alarming 60% to 91% this year.

Mamabolo said: “Please note that the call to change book vouchers to cash was one of the many demands by the student leadership in South Africa as part of their input in the policy governing the higher education student funding. 

"It cannot be that business people regard government policy for their own benefit, at the expense of students.”

ASA convener Mohamed Kharwa said their aim was to support students in achieving academic success.

“The alliance wants to support students to successfully achieve academic success and complete a qualification. Certainly, textbooks alone are not the sum of academic performance or the singular solution, but they form an integral part of higher learning, just as they are a right for learners in basic education.

We’re concerned that the quality, skills and even number of graduates our higher education institutions develop will be impacted by the change in policy this year.”