Students protesting at Eastcape Midlands College TVET await management to address them last week Friday. Photo: Lucas Nowicki
Students at Eastcape Midlands College TVET are accusing the college of failing to use NSFAS and government funding appropriately. They say the college has withheld students’ allowances and failed to supply new textbooks.

A week ago, a group of students protested outside the college’s Grahamstown campus for two days, burning rubbish outside the entrance. They demanded outstanding NSFAS allowances. The students dispersed after management promised them that all allowances would be paid that day.

A week later, the matter is not resolved.

SRC president Sabelo Madlala said failure to pay allowances has been a “continuous issue which started in 2017”.

He said Midlands management had agreed to pay all outstanding allowances by the end of June. “There are students who are qualified and did claim, but their allowances have not been paid so they could not attend classes.”

NSFAS provides allowances for personal care, travel and accommodation. When students’ allowances are delayed, they are often unable to attend classes because they don’t have money for transport. This can mean that they drop below NSFAS’s required 80% attendance rate, said Sabelo.

NSFAS funds some TVET students directly, but most TVETs are responsible for distributing NSFAS funds to students.

Eastcape Midlands communication officer Kate Oladimeji said: “The college is in continuous communication with NSFAS regarding progress on payment of bursaries”. She further said: “Students are represented on the college’s Financial Aid Committee [to] ensure transparency.”

She said the college “strictly adheres to NSFAS bursary rules and guidelines”.

But why allowances were not received was not explained to GroundUp.

Students also raised the issue of Midlands reusing old textbooks, some hard to read because they are full of notes from previous students. NSFAS is supposed to allocate funds for new ones for each student. Sabelo said that some students had brought him textbooks where “you were unable to see the pages because of writing”.

Oladimeji said the institution’s Academic Board has reuse of textbooks “in accordance with the Department of Higher Education and Training’s stipulations”.

NSFAS did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

This article was first published on GroundUp