Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande vows to fix NSFAS crisis

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said that NSFAS also failed to oversee the payment of student allowances timeously. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said that NSFAS also failed to oversee the payment of student allowances timeously. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 15, 2024


Amid the myriad challenges affecting the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande announced on Sunday that he had appointed an administrator to oversee the affairs of the entity.

Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo has been appointed as the administrator after Nzimande dissolved the board last week.

Nzimande said he had dissolved the board due to, among other challenges, the failure of the body to pay student allowances and the irregular appointment of service providers.

Student unions said although they welcomed the dissolution of the NSFAS board, a complete overhaul of the entity was needed.

The minister said that the outgoing NSFAS board had failed to implement the recommendations of the Werksmans Report.

“Among these recommendations was the termination of the contracts of the direct payments service providers which, according to the same Werksmans Report, were appointed irregularly.

I had previously raised this in December, that steps must be taken to remove these service providers.”

Nzimande added that NSFAS also failed to oversee the payment of student allowances timeously.

“This has resulted in unnecessary stress for students and parents. The NSFAS board has also failed to submit a corrected annual report to Parliament.

There also has been an inability to address capacity deficiencies within the organisation, including the call centre, which is not functioning.”

Nzimande said NSFAS had also failed to respond to student queries in a timeous manner.

“There also have been shortcomings in the implementation of the guidelines and solutions for the missing middle students. I have met many times with the board to discuss a turnaround strategy which has also seen the agreed-upon time lines (not being met).”

Nzimande said he had convened a meeting with the NSFAS board members on Thursday and had informed them of his decision to dissolve the board.

“On Friday, I announced the appointment of Mr Sithembiso Freeman Nomvalo as the new administrator for NSFAS. He will take over the governance, management and administration of NSFAS for a period of 12 months.”

Nzimande said Nomvalo, among other duties, would ensure effectiveness in terms of the finalisation of funding guidelines of the loan scheme for the missing middle.

“Nomvalo will also resolve the data integration challenges as a matter of urgency and finalise all the necessary funding decisions and outstanding payments, including those relating to student accommodation.”

Nzimande added that the reconciliation of funding data between universities and TVET colleges and NSFAS needed to be completed.

“Nomvalo must ensure that all the necessary agreements are in place and that students are accurately funded and recorded, with all NSFAS qualifying students receiving funding. He must also oversee the opening of the 2025 online applications process.”

South African Students Congress (Sasco) president Vezinhlanhla Simelane said they welcomed the dissolution of the NSFAS board.

“However, we are concerned that the minister has dissolved the NSFAS boards before and it has not resulted in any changes.

“We have held marches across the country because of the failure of NSFAS to pay student allowances from 2023. I know students that are still waiting for 2023 student allowances.

“We believe that there is corruption at NSFAS and there needs to be an investigation into the NSFAS structures as it is the students who are suffering.”

Asive Dlanjwa, the spokesperson for the South African Union of Students, said they had been calling for the NSFAS board to be dissolved.

“We feel vindicated that our calls have been heard and the board was dissolved. We feel that appointing Nomvalo will not make a difference at NSFAS as there are many challenges at the organisation.

“There needs to be a complete overhaul for NSFAS. There have been incompetent leaders at NSFAS for too long and we definitely need the structure of NSFAS changed to help students.”

IFP Youth Brigade national chairperson Sanele Zondo said that even though the board had been dissolved, the minister should be removed.

“We believe to address the core problems at NSFAS we need Minister Nzimande to be removed. However, we do believe that the NSFAS board is toxic and we are glad it has been dissolved.

There are major problems within the NSFAS structure.”

Zondo added that they hoped there would be a new minister in the Department of Higher Education after the elections.

“We have so many challenges with NSFAS with allowances not being paid to students and accommodation. Students are our future and don’t deserve this treatment.”

The Mercury