NSFAS Is Warned Against Punishing Students With Insufficient Funding
After it was discovered that monies were given to students who weren’t qualified for financing, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme recently came under scrutiny. The scheme claims that it is currently taking action against these students.
A Special Investigating Unit (SIU) study that was conducted to address the problem found that roughly R5 billion was given to about 40,000 ineligible candidates.
According to the report, from 2018 to 2021, 40,044 students at 76 universities were ineligible for bursaries.
These students, according to the SIU, lied about their family’s financial situation in order to allegedly defraud the state by receiving financial aid for which they are not qualified.
Responding to the report, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) has raised concerns about the actions of the alleged students and affirmed that the rule of law and the integrity of the constitution should be upheld.
Yandisa Ndzoyiya, the president of SAUS, said that the organization welcomes and recognizes that action must be done against these students. The student union, however, is against the idea of using the repercussions to try and criminalize the students.
“We are acutely aware that the outcomes of this investigation by the SIU are in fact largely a product of an inefficient and simply an ineffective student funding model for the poor and working class.”
“Therefore, as the union, our view is that, more than a question of corruption, this report is a symptom of an unrefined student funding model that continues to exclude children of the working class from opportunities, throwing them into spheres of ethical dilemmas and crime,” they continued.
According to Ndzoyiya, the money was not intended for waste but rather to give these youngsters access to a quality education.
According to the union, if there had been a funding scheme that supported students who had dropped out of middle school, they would not have been forced to use illegal means to pay for their further education.
“They did an illegal act that was intended to pay for their education, enable them to live honorably, and free them from the dangerous grip of poverty.”
According to the union, the steps for accountability should include recovering the money through a fair and advantageous payback plan for the students to the degree that they are able to afford it. This would be an alternative to bringing criminal action, it is said.
In addition, SAUS emphasized that the study should further compel the Department of Higher Education and Training to advance its efforts, as advised by the Ministerial Task Team, toward the creation of a thorough student funding model that will account for the underserved middle students.
Additionally, SAUS admitted that NSFAS has made investments in better systems since last year in order to be able to identify some of these irregularities.
To ensure that students do not exceed the household income requirement, the bursary program now collaborates with the Department of Home Affairs, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and credit bureaus.