Fort Hare University SRC Briefs Parliament on NSFAS Payment Delays.

The University of Fort Hare’s Student Representative Council (SRC) has detailed to Parliament how they had to scramble for food parcels for students who did not receive allowances for about two months.


This saw classes at the university also being moved online, the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education was told on Wednesday.

The National Student Aid Financial Scheme (NSFAS) introduced direct payments, partnering with controversial banking service providers including Norraco, to ensure accountability for student allowances and to establish a better co-ordinated system of the transfer of funds to students.


However, the new system has experienced a number of challenges, with students from different institutions embarking on protest action.


University of Fort Hare SRC president Siphokazi Mbalo said in April they met with NSFAS officials and rejected the direct payment approach because they did not trust the process and it was not clear how it would unfold.


“We had another meeting on June 22 where we were introduced to Norraco as our service provider, and we told NSFAS that we do not want this system, yet we want to observe it at other institutions.

“We were sceptical because 90% of our students are NSFAS beneficiaries, meaning that if they don’t receive allowances there will be food insecurity and that will cause lot of chaos in our institution.

“When the financial aid started with payments in July, what we had anticipated happened. Students did not receive their allowances and we had to come up with a plan to assist them. The measures used to assist these students include moving classes from physical to online to curb this issue. We had to negotiate for food parcels to be distributed to students who were affected.

“We did a financial aid drive where we called NSFAS and Norraco to come and assist. They were there for five days, but still (there are) issues of students who haven’t received their allowances,” said Mbalo.


They also raised the issue of defunded students, which resulted in some being evicted by their landlords because they couldn’t pay rent.


Vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu confirmed the students’ struggles to the committee, and that they had to assist, including providing data when classes were moved online.

Unisa SRC secretary-general Shatadi Phoshoko also told the committee that they were frustrated by the delays in allowances.


“Delayed tuition funding results in NSFAS-funded students either being registered late or not being registered …such students either underperform due to the delayed start of the academic activities, or drop out. There is an issue where NSFAS offices are unreachable and incapable of assisting students.


“The financial aid is administratively in chaos,” said Phoshoko.

Committee chairperson Nompendulo Mkhatshwa said all allegations had been noted and would be put to NSFAS when it appeared before them next week.


On Thursday, NSFAS said it was aware of “fake reports” indicating that payments to its beneficiaries have been deferred to September 5 due to delays between it and service providers.


“Please note that this is a lie. NSFAS will be paying allowances to students through its direct payment system on September 1. The scheme had a technical glitch resulting in non-payment of allowances today, however, this has been fixed.


“We would like to convey our heartfelt apologies for this unfortunate moment and completely understand the inconvenience this delay will cause our beneficiaries. We will always try our best to ensure that this never occurs going forward.”

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