University of Pretoria students protest over NSFAS accommodation allowance
Dozens of University of Pretoria (UP) students have been sleeping outside the institution’s residence offices since Thursday night due to not having enough funds to pay for on-campus and off-campus private accommodation.
The students, who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), gathered outside the university’s residence and accommodation offices in Hatfield, Pretoria, from 8pm on Thursday while they were seated on mattresses and carrying placards to demonstrate. They are demanding that NSFAS increase their accommodation allowance funding of R45,000 per annum to match higher rental costs they are expected to pay.
UP student representative council (SRC) president Njabulo Sibeko said NSFAS's decision to cap students’ accommodation allowance at R45,000 prevented the students from living in campus residences and off-campus private accommodation that is within walking distance to the university.
Sibeko said university residences cost more than R45,000 per year and off-campus private accommodation was nearer to the university costs of an average of R60,000 per year.
Last month, higher education minister Blade Nzimande said NSFAS-funded students living in universities that provide accommodation but not catering will receive a yearly R45,000 accommodation allowance.
''The NSFAS cap affects us negatively. The reality is that accommodation for students averages around R6,000 a month. The most vulnerable, poor and working class students simply do not have the money to top up this accommodation costs. University residences and off-campus private accommodation which is next to the university is meant to house NSFAS-funded students.
''On Thursday we [SRC] met with the university management to find a solution to this crisis. We tabled about five solutions and the management rejected all our proposals. Students are left stranded. Most of these students are sleeping at libraries, study centres, petrol stations. As the SRC we have decided to support the students. We have decided they should come and sleep outside these offices so that the university can see they are homeless students and this is not a joke,’’ said Sibeko.
He said the SRC has provided mattresses, food and water for the students while they protest outside the offices.
''We will gather here until the management meets with us so that we find a solution to help the students,’’ he said.
He said the R45,000 accommodation allowance only allows students to reside in less expensive places in Sunnyside and Mamelodi which are far away from Hatfield.
UP spokesperson Rickus Delport said the university was disappointed in NSFAS’s rejection of the exemption application made by the institution.
''This means NSFAS will continue to implement the R45,000 cap on accommodation funding and in the process shift the financial burden onto students and the university, which are already experiencing financial strain. We have made a list of accommodation providers available that falls within the NSFAS cap and have agreed to continue engagements with the suppliers of private accommodation to negotiate more favourable rates for NSFAS students.
''The university will, as a matter of urgency, work with the SRC to find alternative accommodation and accredit more affordable accommodation. Where this accommodation is not located close to our campuses, we will be looking at possibly making safe transport available to support students.''
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