NSFAS fails to pay poor students' allowances
Thousands of university students have been left in limbo after the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) failed to pay their allowances for months.
Fisokuhle Shabangu, a bio- medical student at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)'s Doornfontein campus, has been surviving on her child grant since February as she has not yet received her NSFAS allowances for meals, books and accommodation.
Shabangu, 18, from Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the beneficiaries of the free higher education plan announced by the government this year.
"My child grant was to help take care of my four siblings. However, they have had to send it to me every month so that I can buy food and toiletries. I have also been served with a notice of eviction to vacate the place where I am staying because they have not received payment from NSFAS," she said.
Maidi Mabulana, a member of the Student Representative Council at the Doornfontein campus, told Sowetan that UJ has had to use its R200-million budget to assist the scheme beneficiaries.
UJ spokesman Herman Esterhuizen confirmed that some students had not received their allowances.
According to the South African Students Congress (Sasco), thousands of students from institutions around the country had not yet received their allowances. Sasco president Avela Mjajubana said many students have been left struggling by NSFAS.
"We have made a call to the Department of Higher Education to meet with student leaders from various institutions to address this matter urgently. Failure to heed students' demands will leave us with no choice but to organise our constituency and fight for what is due to us," Mjajubana said.
Another UJ student, Mercy Mkandla, 19, from Brakpan, said she had been attending classes on an empty stomach.
"I had hoped that with free education my needs would be taken care of but I can't even afford to buy sanitary towels, I have to ask from friends," Mkandla said.
Andile Sizani, 23, from Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, also a student at UJ, said she has been blocked from Gateway student accommodation because they have not received payment from NSFAS.
NSFAS chief executive Steven Zwane said they would host a session with institutions this week.
"We understand that there are challenges but we should be able to address all the issues by the end of this week," he said.
University of South Africa spokesman Martin Ramotshela said the institution had made concessions to students who are not ready to write their May/June exams due to non payment of book allowances to defer their exams to semester two at no cost.
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