When visiting Umbumbulu Coastal College, Minister Blade Nzimande was asked whether students will be receiving National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances until the end of universities’ extended academic year in February 2021, he said:
“I will be addressing all those matters next week. I am planning to have a fairly detailed press conference and briefing… next week on where we are [concerning post school education and training]”
Minister Blade Nzimande, visited the Coastal TVET College on Thursday to address the death of a staff member Lindinkosi Mazibuko, 44, who was shot seven times on campus two weeks ago and a student Smanga Zulu, an ANC Youth League leader, who was shot three weeks ago.
University students across the country have signed a petition created by Lungah Mkhize demanding that the Minister extends their NSFAS allowances until their university academic years end respectively.
“Nzimande has announced that the November allowance payment was the last one and even urged students to use it wisely,” said Mkhize.
The petition calls for the Minister to consider the effects of Covid-19 on the academic year as well as the “high costs of living” which students have already struggled to pay and will not be able to if the NSFAS allowances are not extended.
The South African Union of Students president Misheck Mugabe seems to speak in favour of the petition and said the union’s position was clear that students must continue receiving allowances during the extension of the academic year.
The South African Students Congress’ (SASCO) spokesperson, Luvuyo Barnes, said a long-standing agreement existed between student leaders, Nzimande and NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen that NSFAS beneficiaries should continue receiving their respective allowances and funds because of the negative impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the 2020 academic year.
Recently, Carolissen came under fire amid allegations of maladministration and corruption at NSFAS, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for his resignation claiming that he had turned NSFAS into a “mafia operation”. Students’ plea transpired as a result of this.
SASCO has called on the government to make the funds available immediately.
Outgoing Student Representative President of UKZN, Sifiso Simelane says that stopping the allowances was illogical.
“A lot of our students are heavily dependent on the NSFAS allowances and there is going to be a lot of hunger,” he said.
Simelane sees an extension as “a matter of principle.”
A lot of students who signed the petition shared the same sentiments.
“I need this money, my assessments end on the 21st of December how am I supposed to write my assessments hungry?” one student said.
Others shared that they would not be able to pay for their accommodation and data charges to take their tests and exams online.
The Higher Education spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said:
“We did indicate that we will continue to pay allowances as per the institution closing dates.”
However, students await clarity on this after allowances were said to end in November.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé