uproar over study funds

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Tertiary institutions have been underspending on money meant for poor students.

This has led to disruptions at some institutions as students revolted against rising tuition fees, while the universities did nothing to subsidise the needy.

The institutions and the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have come under fire for failing to spend funds meant to help underprivileged students.

Recent reports say universities underspent their budgets by a whopping R600million. The government had allocated them R1 billion last year to spend on poor students.

Students continue to protest countrywide over fee increases and lack of study financing.

Both the Department of Education and the NSFAS have denied the allegations.

The spokesman for the University of Limpopo, Kgalema Mohuma, said yesterday the institution was always faced with thousands of good but poor students in need of financial aid.

"It is true that some universities underspend the much-needed funds.

"Every time we forward a budget request, we receive less money through which we are forced to cover new poor students and those already in the system," said Mohuma.

SA Students Congress president David Maimela said: "Problems are with institutions that do not utilise funds.

"That is one of the reasons why there are protests at universities. Students with potential cannot study further, while millions of rands lie fallow. It would have been better if they had overspent."

Department of Education spokesman Lunga Ngqenqelele said: "We would like to place it on record that this is not true."

NSFAS chief executive Pragasen Naicker said out of a budget of R1,2billion for 2006 only R6million was not spent.

"Claims that we underspent by R600million are not true. This amount is a huge chunk of the overall budget.

"We take underspent money into the next budget cycle every year," said Naicker.

However, he said of the R1,6billion budget for 2007, R50million was not used by the universities.