NSFAS fails to procure promised laptops for students
Cape Town - The Higher Education and Training Department has placed the blame for delays in the procurement of laptops for students on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The department also said the non-procurement of the laptops did not mean students did not partake in studies or online learning.
In April, Minister Blade Nzimande announced the provision of laptops and data to students as part of intervention for Covid and facilitation of online learning.
NSFAS was mandated to procure the gadget for the qualifying students but there have been delays.
Briefing the higher education portfolio committee on Friday, Nzimande said he had been informed by NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen that the phase one of the procurement is finished without finding a relevant service provider.
"They are in the second phase. By the end of October they would have managed to appoint. I am concerned with this matter because it delayed the provision of the laptops," Nzimande said.
University education branch deputy director-general Diane Parker said universities had developed multi-modal teaching and learning plans and campus safety plans.
"The department worked with universities to assist to jointly fund these against ministerial approved project plans," she said.
A Covid-19 Response Grant to the tune of R1.3 billion was allocated to assist in this regard, in addition to Campus Safety Grant totalling R608.2 million.
Parker said many universities had used Covid Response Grant to add to the funding they already had for the acquisition of devices for staff and students.
She also said some institutions had used their own funds to buy laptops for students with the intention to receive refund form NSFAS.
Parker told MPs that reports from the universities showed that 68% of students that indicated they required devices have been supported, but some did not take them up due to conditions that were attached to their issuing.
But EFF MP Susan Thembekwayo took a swipe at NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen, whom she said did not see to it that black students received the much-needed laptops.
"Laptops were not distributed because the administrator failed to make sure procurement was concluded and students received laptops. No one must say devices were hundred percent done,"she said.
Thembekwayo also claimed there was interference in the procurement of laptops at NSFAS by an official in the office of Nzimande.
Committee chairperson Philly Mapulane said the delay in procurement of laptops was a matter of concern and doubted they would be procured and delivered on time within this academic year.
"This is clearly unacceptable six months down the line nothing has been done," Mapulane said.
Parker said they too were concerned that students did not get the NSFAS laptops.
She, however, said teaching and learning plans supported by the Covid grant were not dependent on laptops to complete the academic year.
"We must not think that some did not get laptops, they were not able to engage (in online learning)."
Acting deputy director general for TVET education Aruna Singh said no college had issued laptops.
Singh also said their plans had been the saving of 2020 academic year was never premised on the provision of devices.
"We made a point that we need to bring face to face situations due to the nature of TVET education and programmes we offer."
She said the procurement and distribution of laptops would not make sense to the 2020 academic year as the students would soon write exams and some won't be returning next year.