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NSFAS banks on contingency plans as workers continue being on strike

Students line up at an NSFAS office at a Johannesburg campus.
Students line up at an NSFAS office at a Johannesburg campus.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) says it has contingency plans in place to manage strike action by staff affiliated to the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu).

“All the required business continuity and contingency plans are in place to manage the impact of the potential industrial action,” said NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo.

Mamabolo said the 2020 application cycle would not be affected by the strike as all applications were submitted online “via smartphone, computer, NYDA centres, local libraries, GCIS Thusong centres, and department of basic education district teacher development centres”.

In a statement sent by the union on Sunday, its members demand payment of R12,500 performance bonuses, the absorption of temporary staff and introduction of a new pension fund scheme.

Nehawu claimed to have been engaging with the employer on a myriad of issues that remained unresolved.

“Our members have been patient with the employer with the hope that things will turn for the better but instead of improvements their situation is turning dire by the day," the union said. 

“The employer has been preoccupied with isolating and victimising our members who have been at the forefront of exposing corruption emanating from the lack of an accounting system and an IT system [Sbux] which is intended to disburse funds to students,” said the union's Western Cape secretary, Eric Kweleta.

The DA said on Tuesday that NSFAS was one of the entities that had failed to produce audited annual reports to the auditor-general or parliament by the required legal deadline.

“This means that, as things stand, the student funding scheme is unable to account for how it utilised the R30bn it received in the previous financial year due to its failure to submit the financial reports on time,” said the party’s  shadow minister for higher education, Baxolile Nodada.

Nodada said the DA would write to higher education minister Blade Nzimande, calling for a complete overhaul of NSFAS and its entire management.

“This will be done to ensure that, going forward, especially now leading up to the processing of applications and allocation of 2020 allowances, rigorous checks and balances are followed in the management and disbursement of funds by the student funding scheme,” Nodada said.

According to the DA, the financial aid scheme should be directly accountable to parliament and the minister.

"Some underprivileged students at tertiary institutions are suffering, often go hungry, without study material and are evicted from their accommodations because NSFAS fails to pay their allowances on time,” said Nodada.