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Hundreds of NSFAS recipients face uncertainty as cuts loom

Students union opposes mooted move by Treasury

Koena Mashale Journalist
Some students funded by NSFAS claim they have not received their monthly allowance in the past month.
Some students funded by NSFAS claim they have not received their monthly allowance in the past month.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Students relying on government support for their studies say they are worried, anxious and scared their dreams will be shattered should they be excluded from getting funding in 2024.

GroundUp reported last week that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) told parliament that due to budget cuts by National Treasury, more than 87,000 university students will lose their funding.

Acting CEO, Masile Ramorwesi, said: “Based on the calculation of the 10% reduction in university funding from National Treasury's Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), 87,712 students will be left unfunded in the 2024 academic period. This will increase to 120,976 students in the 2024/25 academic year,” said Ramorwesi. 

NSFAS’s projected budget for universities is R41.9bn for 2024/25 and R43.7bn for 2025/26.

“With Treasury’s projected 10% budget cut... this will result in a shortfall of the universities budget of R5.5bn for 2024/25 and R8.1bn in 2025/26,” said Ramorwesi.

Ramorwesi said NSFAS’s projected budget for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, is R9.7bn for 2024/25 and R10bn for 2025/26.

“We project that R970m will be cut from the TVET budget 2024/25 financial year, and R1bn from the 2025/26 financial year.”

NSFAS spokesperson, Slumezi Skosana, did not respond to requests for say since Friday.

University of Venda (UNIVEN) student, Naene Magadani, said instead of relieving students of financial stress as he had still not received allowances from NSFAS for months, the fund was adding to their financial woes. 

“I am yet to get my allowance. This has been a problem for the past months, to a point the university and the SRC [student representative council] had to pitch in and help [students struggling to make ends meet].

“It’s very worrying and stressful [that there are thousands of students who won't get funding] because you don’t really know what’s going to happen. How are they going to [select who qualifies and who doesn't]? I want to further my studies next year and I’m worried that I might be the one kicked out of the scheme,” said Magadani. 

Another student, Masego Letsoalo, said NSFAS is “putting me in a grey area”.

“I am unsure and uncertain about what will happen next year. What processes I’d have to go through next year,” asked Letsoalo. 

“They are confusing us to the point where I am unsure whether I should apply or register to further my studies [or not],” she said. 

Witness Thanzi said she would consider applying for bursaries.

“My family doesn’t have the finances to send me to school. The budget cut isn't fair,” said Thanzi. 

SA Union of Students spokesperson,Asive Dlaniwa, said other measures should have taken instead of cutting the scheme's budget. 

“We don’t say they will be cutting off students who are funded but the students who aren't; like those who have successfully appealed and are still not getting their funding and we have suspected that it is due to lack of funding and we also say NSFAS is maybe relying on the systematic registration of students to cut down the number of students who would need funding,” said Dlaniwa. 

“If we understand education to be an investment then it's worthwhile for Treasury to not cut the budget and use it accordingly. We will keep a close eye and we haven't been given a plan by the department to tell us how they [allocate funds in light of] this [budget] cut,” said Dlaniwa.

Universities SA CEO, Phethiwe Matutu, said they were not consulted on the matter.

“Ideally we don't want any funds to be cut...” said Matutu.

“These students are told to perform from very difficult circumstances with the knowledge that there is a scheme that will cover me and help me, that all their troubles will come to an end and that if they pass grade 12 then they will be properly covered as promised by the government. And then you apply but you are told there is no funding for you,” said Matutu.


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