NSFAS criticised for allowing universities to disburse student allowances

Acting NSFAS chairperson Professor Lourens van Staden. Picture: Masi Losi

Acting NSFAS chairperson Professor Lourens van Staden. Picture: Masi Losi

Published Mar 4, 2024


The decision by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to once more allow universities and TVET colleges to directly disburse student allowances has been criticised as taking 10 steps backwards in the fight against corruption.

Earlier today, acting NSFAS chairperson Professor Lourens van Staden announced that the board had in the interim requested universities to operate as a channel to pay student allowances for the months of February and March respectively.

Van Staden said communication had been sent to all universities notifying them of the decision, with the financial aid managers at the various institutions requested to confirm allowance payment dates.

He said for TVET colleges the decision was also taken for payment to be made through the direct payment channel.

To date, about 29 institutions have reportedly submitted their registration data, which according to the acting chairperson would enable them to be paid this Friday, with the remaining institutions urged to submit their data to enable the aid scheme to make “catch-up” payments.

In order to enable institutions to effect the student allowances, Van Staden said two upfront payments had been made to the institutions, the first on January 31 to the tune of R2.8 billion to universities, and the second disbursed on February 29.

The first upfront payment will cover student book allowances, calculated at half of the 2023 academic year cost, and one month’s accommodation.

The second upfront payment effected by March 1 was to the tune of R2 107 551 411.20 to cover book allowances, accommodation allowances, transport, food and personal care.

The upfront payments are expected to be disbursed to students from the beginning of April.

A further R580 150 950.00 was paid to TVET colleges as upfront tuition for January.

Van Staden said an additional R1bn was earmarked for three months’ worth of allowances to be paid based on registration for the January to March period, to enable institutions to register all NSFAS-approved students for the current academic year.

For medical students in particular the aid scheme said provision had been made for two months worth of student allowances, especially for those whose academic year commences in January.

According to the acting chairperson, NSFAS had requested the institutions to make the allowance payments due to the challenges experienced at the beginning of the academic year which led to delays in receiving registration data from the institutions.

However, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) SRC president Keamogetswe Masike said they were disappointed with the decision to allow universities to disburse student allowances given how some were heavily plagued by corruption themselves.

Masike said it was even more disappointing that nothing significant was mentioned of the progress of investigation into the expelled CEO, corruption and other issues plaguing the financial aid scheme.

“We hoped to hear how NSFAS was going to address the myriad issues which have been plaguing the scheme and instead we got nothing concrete. Werksmans recommended that some staff members were linked in the appointment of independent service providers, yet we know nothing about these people who assisted with the appointment, why are they in the shadows?

“That was an essay of a Grade 7 child who was given a topic to go and present issues, instead of giving us the disbursement model to be used, and how these institutions are going to be held accountable and not withhold funds as discovered by the SIU,” Masike stressed.