‘It’s cheap’: Tzaneen student says some choose to live in shacks to make NSFAS allowance stretch
Scheme dismisses claims of accrediting shack accommodation after DA outcry
A shack settlement in Tzaneen, Limpopo, where students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are living, has shocked the DA.
The party said it will submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) application to ascertain if any contracts were issued to landlords.
DA MP Karabo Khakhau conducted an oversight visit to the Madalabara settlement last week, where she spoke to “many students” from the Letaba TVET College in Tzaneen about living in “inhumane conditions”.
Khakhau said the Paia application will reveal whether the Madalabara accommodation is part of the 65.64% of unaccredited accommodation the NFSAS admits it funds. “Or worse, that NSFAS saw fit to accredit these accommodations and wilfully allowed students to suffer this way,” she said.
NSFAS has dismissed this as misleading, saying student accommodation processes at the college were investigated in September when the issue was first flagged.
“The college made NSFAS aware they had reviewed the lease agreements signed by students and had found no record of students residing in shacks,” it said.
“It was, however, mentioned that in some cases students changed accommodation without updating their lease agreements and college records accordingly. These developments made it even more important for the college to be part of the NSFAS student accommodation pilot project.
“NSFAS is aware that the state of some private and institution-owned accommodation is not conducive for learning. This is one of the reasons NSFAS undertakes a stringent process in ensuring beneficiaries stay in approved accredited accommodation.”
The financial aid organisation said it has rigorous processes to ensure all beneficiaries are placed in accredited accommodation that meets their needs.
“As part of the process for accrediting student accommodation, NSFAS uses the department of higher education and training's norms and standards for housing which provides for institutions of higher learning and colleges to accredit suitable accommodation facilities to increase the number of student housing stock available.
“It is worth noting, however, that demand far exceeds supply in this sector. Many students cannot access suitable accommodation close to their learning institutions,” NSFAS said.
The Letaba TVET College referred questions to NSFAS.
A student living in the area, who asked not to be identified, said some students chose the area because it is cheap.
“They are paying for themselves. It wasn't arranged by NSFAS. Those who get an accommodation allowance receive R3,400 which is not enough for accommodation in town so students run to Madalabar,” he said.
He said the system provided for the allowance to be paid into a student's account and they could choose where to stay to stretch the funds.
The student said more than 200 students live in the shacks.
“Some of them stay in pairs and you find they are paying R250 each. Some shacks cost R400. For the RDP [houses] they pay R800. The ones who are lucky are the students who find they have proper built rooms. Then they can pay R1,000. But a lot of people staying there stay in shacks and not RDP.”
Conditions were not good at Madalabara, he said. “It's not safe for students to stay there, and you cannot easily study. During rainy days it becomes a mess. They have to put out buckets as shacks leak.”
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