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Source: South Africa News Agency

The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Buti Manamela, says while there are still challenges of student allowances not being paid on time by universities and TVET colleges, he is happy that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has disbursed all the funds on time. 

Manamela said this when he briefed media following his visit to the NSFAS office in Cape Town on Thursday. 

The Deputy Minister’s visit was aimed at getting an update on the 2020 registration process. He also did a walkabout at the call centre to get first-hand experience of queries and challenges faced by students in universities, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. 

“Most of the challenges we have received a report on have to do with what we regard as internal challenges, so we are quite excited with the improvement that has been made at NSFAS. 

“This year was the first year which we paid allowances before March, which I think is a big leap compared to the past,” he said. 

Manamela said this year, most institutions have been paid upfront. 

“In fact, all institutions have been paid upfront for them to be able to disburse allowances to students. 

“We have had minimal late applications. The idea, as we have always said, would be to reduce [late applications] to almost zero. 

“We have had minimal appeals… I think all of this is a symbol of stability in terms of the role that NSFAS needs to play.” 

In the near future, with the lessons that have been learnt over the last two or three years, government will be able to have registrations and academic programmes commencing on time. 

Ministry, department to engage students protesting over unpaid allowances 

Manamela said despite this, he, together with NSFAS management, will continue to engage with student formations and university management on campuses where protests have erupted over non-payment of allowances, which he said was caused by capacity issues. 

Following his visit to the NSFAS office, Manamela was expected to conduct a monitoring visit at the University of Cape Town later on Thursday morning. 

He said that unlike over a year ago, most of the challenges that have caused student protests have had very little to do with NSFAS, but with university and TVET colleges, who have been faced with capacity challenges in as far as paying allowances on time. 

“As late as April or May 2018, there were protests in most of our campuses, and the source of most of those challenges was a result of the challenges here at NSFAS. 

“I must say that throughout 2019… the situation has extremely improved. 

“We have to deal with some of the challenges that are there on campus, which are NSFAS related. 

“I think as we engage with the student leadership and university management, what we are finding out is that part of the solutions, particularly with TVET colleges, would be to ensure that NSFAS pays students directly to their account, as opposed to what’s happening now, where most of the campuses are facing problems of incapacity in paying students directly those allowances,” said Manamela. –

MIL OSI Africa