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NSFAS Allowance Protests Unpaid Funds Fuel Student Uprising

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NSFAS Allowance Protests Unpaid Funds Fuel Student Uprising

NSFAS Allowance Protests Unpaid Funds Fuel Student Uprising. A wave of concern has swept over students due to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) implementation of a new allowance payment system. This shift has triggered significant unrest, particularly evident in the ongoing protests at a college in Limpopo.

Protest Eruption Over Delayed Allowances

The campus of Waterberg Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Mokopane, Limpopo, has become a battleground for student protests. For the past two weeks, these students have been actively demonstrating their dissatisfaction with the prolonged delay in receiving their allowances, a result of the new NSFAS payment system.

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Long-Standing Allowance Arrears

The root of student frustration lies in the fact that they have gone an extended six months without receiving their NSFAS allowances. The gravity of this situation has forced some students to shoulder their own tuition and essential living costs, a reality they had not anticipated.

Financial Stress Impeding Academic Progress

The financial strain resulting from unpaid allowances has cast a shadow over students’ academic endeavors. Unable to fully focus on their studies due to the financial burden, the students collectively decided to stage a strike to address their plight. Adding to their concerns, there have been claims that the college administration threatened expulsion if the protest persisted.

NSFAS’s Stance and the Direct Payment System

To clarify, NSFAS has stated that allowances will only be disbursed once the institution provides registration data. This data is then shared with service providers, who oversee the process of direct payments to students’ accounts.

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The Direct Payment System

In 2022, NSFAS embarked on a transformative path by introducing the Direct Payment System. Departing from the previous practice of routing allowances through institutions, NSFAS aims to directly allocate funds to individual students.

Direct Payment System Challenges and Students’ Concerns

However, the new system has not been without challenges, especially as reported by students at Waterberg TVET College. They have raised concerns about the system’s complexity, which they assert makes it susceptible to fraudulent activities. Additionally, tracking their financial transactions has proven to be problematic.

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Culmination in a Strike

The build-up of dissatisfaction and financial adversity finally led students to initiate a strike. The assertion is simple: no allowances, no academic progress. This step was also fueled by grievances over the hefty bank fees levied by NSFAS-appointed service providers.

Scrutinizing the NSFAS Bank Account Tender

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) took a closer look at the financial implications of NSFAS-appointed service providers. Their investigation revealed that the bank fees imposed by these providers surpassed those charged by traditional banks. Consequently, the escalated fees have hit students hard, collectively amounting to an estimated R3 billion over the contract’s duration. Notably, over a quarter of NSFAS-funded students experienced delays in allowance disbursement.

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NSFAS’s Response and Future Actions

In response to the escalating concerns, NSFAS has pledged to carry out a thorough investigation into the complaints. They have assured that appropriate measures will be taken if the allegations are substantiated. Furthermore, NSFAS has advised service providers to increase their on-site presence at higher education institutions, aiming to address students’ challenges with the direct allowance payment system.

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