Johannesburg - National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson Sizwe Nxasana has resigned, saying the mandate and funding obligations of the scheme have increased exponentially, placing extreme strain on the organisation's systems and processes.
Nxasana’s resignation comes as calls for him to step down mounted, with the SA Union of Students (SAUS) saying he had failed to turn around the fortunes of the institution.
SAUS's Lwandile Mtsolo accused both the board and its management of starving scores of students who were already accepted by NSFAS through their "recklessness" and "incompetency".
“It is with heavy heart that I have resigned as chairperson and member of the board of NSFAS. After three years at the helm, the time is right for me to step aside.
“I informed the minister of higher education of my resignation on Monday, August 6 and offered my support to ensure an orderly handover process. It has been a privilege and honour to serve as a NSFAS board member and chairperson,” Nxasana said on Thursday.
He said NSFAS was conceived to deliver financial aid to students from poor and working-class backgrounds, and this year alone financed over 400000 students.
“While the last few years have been extremely challenging, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to immerse myself in education and contribute to finding sustainable solutions for the higher education sector.
“Since December 2016, the NSFAS mandate and funding obligations increased exponentially, placing extreme strain on the body's systems and processes,” Nxasana said.
Though he was not clear on what he would do next, Nxasana said he would “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”.
Addressing the national executive meeting of SAUS last week, Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor criticised NSFAS leadership for centralising the distribution of student funding.
“The way in which the student-centred model was implemented was wrong. You cannot parachute and apply online and the financial aid office in the campus does not know. There has to be a connection. Those things must change,” she said.
Pandor has ordered the embattled scheme to halt student applications for next year and process them only once it has sorted out its backlog.
Department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said Pandor had accepted Nxasana's resignation. The minister would hold a meeting with the board soon to discuss a way forward.
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