Johannesburg - Student organisations are divided over Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande’s decision to extend the term of the troubled National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) administrator Randall Carolissen by a year.
Carolissen, who was appointed by Nzimande’s predecessor Naledi Pandor for a year in August last year, will oversee a smooth transition and the appointment of new NSFAS executives and board.
Among the terms of reference for Carolissen is the finalisation of the close out of the 2017 and 2018 student funding cycle, including all data exchange and final payments.
He also has to ensure that the 2019 funding cycle is effectively closed out, provide accurate data to the department and prepare for next year’s cycle.
Carolissen will also run NSFAS’s day-to-day affairs, fully address its operational challenges including strengthening of structures, systems and policies that will ensure good governance and effective management.
Nzimande also wants Carolissen, who is an adjunct professor at the Wits School of Governance and a former SA Revenue Service executive, to oversee all forensic investigations to allow NSFAS to be managed and operate effectively.
But EFF Student Command national spokesperson Xola Mehlomakulu said the extension of Carolissen’s term was problematic, unfortunate and angering.
Mehlomakulu said Nzimande should not be recycling the same administrator partly responsible for creating the administrative nightmare faced by students at institutions across the country.
“We need to see institutional and systematic change,” he said.
Mehlomakulu also blamed the centralisation of NSFAS systems for the current troubles.
Nzimande’s extension of Carolissen’s term follows a week of violent protests at the University of Fort Hare over students’ failure to secure NSFAS funding after appealing its decision.
Students went on a rampage and forced the Eastern Cape-based institution to take the third term break from Thursday until September 2.
SA Students Congress secretary-general Moipone Mhlongo said the ANC-aligned organisation supported the extension of Carolissen’s term as he has done better than the NSFAS board which was dissolved by Pandor last year.
Mhlongo said there were still problems including the backlog of historical debt NSFAS failed to pay to institutions.
She said the NSFAS system was totally unfair and that students at different institutions around the country were not receiving similar allowances for books and food.
South African Union of Students president Misheck Mugabe welcomed the move to keep Carolissen, saying he inherited a troubled entity in which rot was setting in.
Mugabe said under Carolissen, NSFAS managed to clear a backlog of 200000 students allowances last year.
He pleaded with Carolissen to ensure that NSFAS was stabilised and work with students to resolve all the remaining challenges.