Parliament has told the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to get its house order and gave it two weeks to report on a date for the conclusion of all appeals.
The portfolio committee on higher education slammed the board members led by chairperson Ernest Khosa over appeal responses that are still outstanding.
During a briefing on Wednesday MPs expressed disappointment that more than 14 000 eligible students were wrongly defunded, leading to chaos in the sector. NSFAS received a total of 2 142 888 funding applications for both new and continuing students.
“It has been identified that there were 45 927 records that were funded and later unfunded because of processing gaps. Hybrid applications affected 14 703 records where continuing students applied erroneously because of migrating from the old to the new system. In some instances, it was students panicking because they did not see their funding statuses and applied for funding.
“However, given that we cannot determine the reason why these students truly applied and the fact that there was a technical mishap, the remediation of these students was done as a collective, assuming these students did not need to apply,” said Acting Chief Executive Masile Ramorwesi.
He said they were correcting this, and all the unjustly rejected students would now be funded.
NSFAS also received 170 683 financial and academic eligibility appeals, 58 924 were funded and 6 337 applicants were rejected.
“There are 28 971 appeals that were deemed invalid, and these consist of withdrawn, deleted and duplicated appeals. A total of 44 561 appeals are dependent on institutions to load results as well as applicants to upload missing information. There are also appeals in progress that need system dependency (7 927) and human dependency (23 963),” said Ramorwesi.
Committee chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said they were not happy, and students and parents were anxious.
“Let’s be frank with each other.
There are young people who have been unjustly defunded, and even those who might be correctly defunded. This happened mid-year. They could have been informed about funding decisions in time. We are seeing reports that some students received wrong amounts for allowances.
“There is a trust deficit between NSFAS, us and the students. When will you do the work if you have to keep on coming here to account? We are really disappointed,” said Mkhatshwa.
Ramorwesi said that by the end of this month and October 30 appeal matters would have been concluded.
However, another board member said this was not possible due to the complexity of the issues, giving an example of an NSFAS appeal decision that can be appealed by a student.
Mkhatshwa gave the entity two weeks to return and brief the committee with a clear deadline for “Day Zero” regarding appeals and 2024 academic year preparations.
Meanwhile, Higher Education and Training Director-General Nkosinathi Sishi expressed concern over pending funding of students at North West University, University of Fort Hare, Unisa, UWC, Stellenbosch University and Wits.