Students say they will fight truth and nail against the proposed 75% passing rate requested by the Nation Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The National Deputy Secretary of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) Nhlanhla Simelane said NSFAS need to find other ways of dealing with their financial problems as student representatives, they will not accept the proposal, and they are ready to fight until the decision is revised.
“This is a very concerning issue. Our call is very clear, and we totally disagree with this proposed pass mark because it will exclude more students from universities, and it's something that we are fighting. We are not backing down,” said Simelane.
This issue was tabled at the meeting regarding a new funding policy which was attended by student leaders from public universities on Monday.
On Wednesday afternoon, NSFAS released a statement confirming that the decision is not final, but they are currently holding stakeholder consultations regarding the proposed NSFAS 2022 Eligibility Criteria and Conditions for Financial Aid (funding guidelines). This Eligibility Criteria will be effective as of the 2022 academic year, with some transitional arrangements to be implemented in 2023.
Fees must fall activist Bonginkosi Khanyile says the 75% pass mark is ridiculous, and it will open doors for the exclusion of students from universities.
“Instead of fundraising, they are deliberately opting for exclusion. We are living under strenuous social conditions of Covid 19. You can’t be expecting students to get straight A’s, especially those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Straight A students already have sponsors and bursaries.” said khanyile.
He added students were faced with many challenges, and the suicide rate in universities is very high. The proposed pass rate will cause more stress and depression to a lot of students considering the environments they were exposed to.
Earlier this year, NSFAS had been struggling to fund eligibility for prospective first-year students at public universities. Department of Higher Education minister Blade Nzimande said there was no money to fund first year students as the R35 billion budget had been spent on the extended 2020 academic year costs.
Nzimande was forced to scramble for funding by approaching the cabinet for solutions.
“ Funding will be re-prioritised from the department of Higher Education and Training in order to ensure that all deserving NSFAS qualifying students are able to receive funding support for the 2021academic year,” he said.
Simelani said the funding scheme had been facing financial challenges this year, which resulted in students not receiving financial benefits that come with the government funding.
“At the beginning of the year, some students were left stranded after NSFAS failed to pay for the accommodation. Even now, NSFAS has revised the N+2 rule to N+1 rule. N+ rule is the number of years funded students are expected to finish their degrees.” said Simelane.
Students threatened to take the same actions, which led to the fees must fall revolution.
“We hope that the young ones will follow in our footsteps and do what we did and shut down all the universities,” said Khanyile.