NSFAS board chairperson Sizwe Nxasana has resigned. File picture: Siyasanga Mbambani/GCIS

Johannesburg - The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) on Monday welcomed the resignation of Sizwe Nxasana as National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) chairman this week.

Nxasana reportedly handed over his resignation letter to Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor on Monday.

His resignation came as the embattled scheme faces a funding backlog for students, which had led to protests at institutions. The NSFAS resorted to halting 2019 funding applications in an effort to deal with outstanding payments for the thousands that were promised free higher education in December 2017.

The union, affiliated to the Congress of South African Trade Unions, accused Nxasana of mismanaging the funding scheme.

''Nehawu welcomes his resignation as a necessary step towards fixing NSFAS and helping it from being plunged into further crisis of collapsing the scheme by those with no interest of serving the poor students and the working class,'' the union said in a statement.

It said it had been calling for Nxasana to resign as far back as 2015 when he was recruited by the then higher education minister Blade Nzimande to head the NSFAS. Nxasana was FirstRand CEO before moving to NSFAS. 

Nxasana said the sudden announcement of free higher education for poor students led to funding obligations increasing rapidly, placing ''extreme strain'' on NSFAS systems and processes.

''I would like to recognise the many patriotic and committed South Africans in government, business and academia who have contributed their expertise and resources to try and make quality education accessible. I will continue making a contribution in my different roles and capacities to support less privileged young South Africans acquire the knowledge and skills to allow them to participate meaningfully in the economy and our nation’s life,'' he said in a statement.

Nehawu urged Pandor to expedite a reconfiguration of the NSFAS board and the executive management and implement a full free higher education payment plan.

African News Agency/ANA