Many students were left high and dry after receiving messages that their NSFAS funds were paid but found that this was not the case when they tried to access the funds.
THE DA in the Northern Cape has called on the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, to assist students, particularly those in rural areas of the Province, who have been unable to access their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances due to technical errors with the system.
DA member of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) select committee on education Delmaine Christians said that many students were left high and dry after receiving messages that their NSFAS funds were paid but found that this was not the case when they tried to access the funds.
“Students complained that although they received notifications on their cellphones from NSFAS last week already, the funds were still not available. Error messages showed that while money was available, cash was not available, or that only a small amount, like R10, was available. Some areas also do not have branches of the required merchants like Shoprite and Checkers. Students were, therefore, unable to access their funds,” said Christians.
She added that although the chief executive officer (CEO) of NSFAS had assured Parliament that they were making the fund more effective, this had, however, not been done
“During a joint portfolio and select committee meeting on May 11, 2020, the CEO of NSFAS, Dr Carolissen, told Members of Parliament that NSFAS had identified certain TVET colleges that would convert to NSFAS Wallet. These colleges, which include the Rural TVET College in the Northern Cape, would in effect no longer be handling the administration of student allowances. At the time, Carolissen promised that there would be less errors with the NSFAS Wallet system. We are now concerned that this is not the case,” she said.
Christians said that colleges in the Northern Cape had indicated that they were unable to assist the affected students.
“When I called the TVET college and asked them whether they were aware of the issues students were experiencing, they said ‘yes’ but that they were unable to assist them because they were no longer administering the process and also because NSFAS did not train them or send them any guidelines. This is unacceptable,” she said.
She called on the fund administrators to address the technical matters hindering the service.
“NSFAS has had ICT-related problems for a number of years already that they have consistently failed to resolve. A case in point was the recently reported incident that saw NSFAS erroneously pay R2 billion to the wrong students, which it might never be able to recover. It is high time that systems are prioritised and streamlined, and that staff are properly trained in order to prevent ongoing glitches that have the ability to derail the education of thousands of students.
“Minister Nzimande has announced an independent investigation into the NSFAS systemic glitches that previously sparked riots on campuses. We therefore call on him to ensure that the problems being experienced by our students are urgently resolved,” said Christians.