Students are demanding that the Minister extends their NSFAS allowances to February 2021 and have gone as far as starting a petition. This petition has now been signed by almost 44 000 inidividuals all coming together to have the Minister reconsider his position.
The petition was created by Lungah Mkhize who says in the petition statement:
The minister of higher education, Mr Blade Nzimande has announced that the November allowance payment was the last one and even urged students to use it wisely.
“COVID-19 has caused a lot of things to be delayed, this includes the extension of the academic year which usually ends in November, it has been extended by two more months,” this the petition says gives further background to why students will need more from their allowances.
With the high costs of living in the country and students barely making it through a month with the current allowances, this is truly saddening and displayed a great detachment to the realities of students from poor backgrounds.
The petition concludes with saying, “students are appealing to the minister please reconsider this decision” and the number attached to students is only growing.
One supporter said that they are signing because they have tests during December and would therefore prefer being at their student accommodation space but their landlord won’t allow them to stay without paying.
Many are of the opinion that the academic year being extended should therefore translate to the allowances being extended as well as many of them depend on it for their livelihoods as students.
South African Union of Students president Misheck Mugabe seems to agree with the petition as they also believe that students allowances should be extended in the same way that the academic year is. Mugabe told Cape Argus, “We have written to the minister in that regard and we are waiting for a response.”
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) rejects Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande’s statement and is now calling on government to release the funds immediately. The Congress’s spokesperson, Luvuyo Barnes, said that student leaders had an agreement with Nzimande and NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen, which says that accommodation and food allowances should continue being given to all NSFAS beneficiaries due to the effects the pandemic has had on the 2020 academic year.
Spokesperson for Higher Education, Ishmael Mnisi, said:
We did indicate that we will continue to pay allowances as per the institution closing dates.
There has recently been a lot of back and forth between NEHAWU and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). NEHAWU has said that Randall Carolissen being appointed as the Administrator of NSFAS hasn’t solved any issues. The Union also wanted Carolissen to be fired, saying that he has run the institution into the ground. This was supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) as well.
EFF is now claiming that the Administrator has turned the financial aid scheme into a ‘mafia operation’.
The Minister in charge of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, along with the Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela, have previously shown their support for the Administrator and the work he’s done.
Nzimande said of Carolissen, “On my side, I want to put it on record that I think he has done a sea change in terms of what NSFAS was and some of the challenges of the organisation”. Manamela also has previously said, “As far as we’re concerned, NSFAS has stabilised over the last two years … There has not been a substantiation of the allegations of corruption and maladministration.”
The EFF has now said that they will approach the Public Protector to investigate and they claim that they will make sure that NSFAS is rescued from “the hands of a glorified gangster”.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé