NSFAS protest for fees escalates

2019-02-13 06:00
Teargas was used to disperse protesting students.PHOTOS: lethiwemakhanya

Teargas was used to disperse protesting students.PHOTOS: lethiwemakhanya

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UNISA students brought Langalibalele Street to a standstill on Monday, closing the road with the burning tyres and rubbish, as they expressed their anger at The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) who they claim have not paid out tuition monies, resulting in them being unable to register for the 2019 academic year.

This protest forms a part of the total shut down by the South African Students Congress (SASCO), who pledged to shut down all the Universities that are having problems with NSFAS, accommodation and registration.

Andile Ndaba, regional secretary of the Students Representative Council (SRC) at Unisa, said the problem started at the beginning of the semester, stating that NSFAS had promised to fund returning and new students.

“There are about 600 to 700 returning students who are still waiting for their last year’s results but they can not get them because NSFAS did not pay. Now they cannot even register without their results and NSFAS still has not paid them for this year.

“Not more than five students have been approved and paid by NSFAS for this year from both returning and first year students. The students don’t even have money to buy books, even though they were promised [the funds]. We cannot continue like this anymore,” he said, vowing that they will not stop protesting until their issues are resolved.

In the meantime, at the Durban University of Technology Indumiso Campus, classes were disrupted as students also embarked on a strike over similar issues.

When the Echo visited the campus on Monday, students were standing outside and others had already gone home. The gates were closed and the police were on standby outside the campus.

SASCO Secretary at Indumiso Campus Abulele Kufe said the problems they experiencing are NSFAS, registration and accommodation.

Kufe said NSFAS was supposed to pay students over the weekend but that did not happen. He also added that about 50% of students have not been put on the system because they have not yet received their money from NSFAS.

“DUT had a system called the quintile system that was used for first year students who come from lower quintile schools. Those students do not need to pay the registration if they have applied for NSFAS. They can register and, when the NSFAS pays them , they can pay that registration but we told them that the university is not going to use that system this year. A student must register before they can be put on the system. How can you expect a child from a no-fee school to have money for registration? They [the university] is saying that they cancelled that system because they do not want to create debt for the students. There are students who are forced to go back home because they do not have money to register.

“NSFAS has not paid them and the university is taking back their offer of letting them study because they do not have money for registration,” he said.

Kufe also said that accommodation also is a big issue at their campus: “There are students who applied for residence but were told that they are on the waiting list. Where are they supposed to stay?

“I also do not have a place to stay and I do not know what am I going to do. Some of the students here come from very far away and they do not have a place to stay,” he said.

DUT Senior Director of Corporate Affairs Alan Khan confirmed the protest, saying that DUT suspended lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Although lectures have been temporarily suspended, DUT remains open. DUT management received a memorandum from the Student Representative Council (SRC). Some of the issues raised in the memorandum are funding frustrations by NSFAS, student housing allocations, and transport issues. DUT management will continuously engage with the SRC over the next two days to try and resolve the issues that have been raised.

“DUT would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused during this challenging time. The University will resume lectures on Thursday, February 7.

“Both staff and students are urged to keep checking the DUT website for all official University announcements,” he said.

Khan said students who have not yet registered can still register online, via the DUT website www.dut.ac.za or, alternatively, in person at all registration venues in and around DUT campuses.

NSFAS National Spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo said: “NSFAS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with universities that it will pay money to the university and the university will make such funds available to students in the form of cash. Where the institution is unable to make payments, then NSFAS will ensure that payments of allowances is done to students. Funds are only made available to institutions after signing the MOU with NSFAS,” he said.

Mamabolo said NSFAS and all institutions agreed on payment date starting from February 8.

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