Solidarity takes NSFAS to court to force it to immediately reinstate all bursaries
Pretoria - Trade union Solidarity’s youth arm will launch an urgent application against the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to force it to immediately reinstate all bursaries it had committed to, and meet its financial obligations accordingly.
This application, due later this month before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria comes after NSFAS, in its response to Solidarity’s letter of caution, denied any irregularities or mismanagement with regard to the non-payment of student bursaries.
“NSFAS is absolving itself while thousands of students are without a future,” Paul Maritz, manager of Solidarity youth and career development, said.
According to Maritz, the upshot of NSFAS’s alleged mismanagement is that students have lost their bursaries and will therefore not be able to continue and complete their studies.
“These students all come from lower income groups and cannot fund their own studies. For them, NSFAS provided an answer to shape their own future. Now they are being deprived of this by irregularities in the aid scheme.”
In its court papers, Solidarity rejects NSFAS’s claims that it acted fairly and within its rights by cancelling and withdrawing financial support to students.
Solidarity insists that all “irregularities” should be stopped immediately and requests the court to order NSFAS to honour its contractual obligations towards the students with whom it has entered into an agreement.
“No institution has the right to unilaterally terminate a contract and to simply be remiss in fulfilling its obligations,” Anton van der Bijl, head of legal services at Solidarity, said.
“What NSFAS did is not just unethical, but it is also immoral. NSFAS forgets that it (the scheme) is not just dealing with numbers but with people whose future is at stake,” he said.
According to the union, there are no valid reasons NSFAS failed to honour its obligations. It says that there are contractual agreements in place between the eligible student and the designated institution for the purpose of administering loans and bursaries to students of that institution on behalf of NSFAS. These are governed by the NSFAS Act, which must be honoured.
Some of the students who are asking that they continue receiving NSFAS funding, complained that they simply receive messages to say that their household incomes exceeded the threshold.
They will, however, argue that their incomes are below the threshold and that they in fact comply with the rules to be allowed student funding.
The union said this matter is extremely urgent as these students are being prejudiced and the irreversible consequences if their loans are terminated.
If they are left without funding, their respective tertiary institutions will simply withhold their exam marks.
This in turn will frustrate their readmission next year.
NSFAS’ stance is that these students whose financial aid has been stopped are not financially eligible. The union will, however, dispute this.
The union said the fund was specifically created to ensure that the less fortunate also received a tertiary education.