SCORES of students across the country’s universities have been left stranded due to the National Student Financial Scheme (NSFAS)’s failure to pay their tuition fees.
Sunday Independent can reveal that two of the would be academics have committed suicide because they could not make a living after qualifying.
In both cases, NSFAS had not paid their fees for years following the completion of their studies, and so they could not get their certificate from their respective universities.
Sunday Independent previously reported that former University of Fort Hare graduates threatened to drag Higher Education minister and Training minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, to court over non-payment of their unsettled fees, which resulted in the institution refusing to hand them their qualifications.
Nine students, armed with the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees – but with no papers to show for it – wrote a letter of demand to Nzimande and the National (NSFAS) to pay their fees or face legal action for breach of contract.
Universities across the country have withheld student certificates due to the failure by NSFAS to uphold their end of the contract.
NSFAS did not respond to questions sent by Sunday Independent.
Last week the publication received an email from Ndumiso Mguni, a student from the Durban University of Technology, who said he felt that NSFAS and the government were hell-bent on destroying their futures.
Mnguni wrote: “Please help us!... I want to inform you that there are many graduates who do not have their certificate because they are held by universities, because NSFAS did not pay the tuition fees they were suppose to pay.
“Not only at DUT. There are many people in colleges and universities who are in this situation.”
Zakhele Khumalo is said to have hung himself last week because he was not able to make a living for himself.
Sunday Independent tried to reach out to his family to get what the circumstances of his death were, but his uncle Samuel Khumalo asked for time to heal, and confirmed that there was a suicide letter Zakhale left.
Speaking in isiZulu, Samuel said: “We know what happened. He killed himself because he felt useless…He would not do anything for himself. The government has failed us once again…but please give us space to grieve.”
The registration period for the 2024 academic year began last week and several students have been left stranded due to the unpaid fees scandal.
The Special Investigating Unit launched an investigation into NSFAS, and managed to recoup over R700 million in unpaid fees.
The amount reportedly includes R688.2 million in unallocated funds.
The SIU also reportedly signed an acknowledgement of debt agreements of R49.7 million with Motheo Technical Vocational Education and Training College in the Free State, and they said, the unallocated funds are due to poor control systems and a lack of a reconciliation processes by NSFAS.
It also found that the voucher payment system had many dormant accounts that were active.
NSFAS reportedly refuted claims by the South African Union of Students (SAUS) that it was on the brink of collapse, and said they were realigning and modernising to meet the demands of the more than 1 million students served.
This after a statement from the union accused NSFAS of near collapse after they failed to pay over 70 000 students their monthly allowances since the end of May last year, after it switched to a direct payment system.