NSFAS Allowance Protests: Students Demand Unpaid Funds Amidst New Payment System Woes.The implementation of a new allowance payment system by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has stirred concerns among students. A significant uproar has emerged at a Limpopo college as students have been awaiting their allowances for an extended period.
NSFAS Allowance Protests: Students Demand Unpaid Funds Amidst New Payment System Woes
Protests Over Unpaid Allowances
In a troubling development, students at Waterberg Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Mokopane, Limpopo, have initiated protests spanning two weeks due to delays in receiving their allowances. The protests have persisted as students from both college campuses express their frustrations with NSFAS.
Six Months of Unpaid Allowances
Students engaged in the protests allege that they have not received their NSFAS allowances for the past six months. The financial burden has compelled some students to cover their tuition fees and essential expenses, such as living costs, amidst a lack of funds.
Academic Struggles Amidst Financial Stress
Many students have reported facing significant academic challenges due to the financial stress brought on by the unpaid allowances. The mounting pressure has culminated in a decision to stage the strike. Furthermore, allegations have arisen that the college administration threatened students with expulsion if they persisted with the protest.
NSFAS’s Response and Direct Payment System
According to NSFAS, allowance disbursement will occur once they receive registration data from the respective educational institutions. This registration data will subsequently be provided to service providers responsible for facilitating the direct payment process.
In a significant shift, NSFAS introduced the Direct Payment System in 2022. Previously, allowances were disbursed to institutions, which then distributed the funds to students. With the new system, NSFAS aims to directly pay students, altering the previous approach.
Student Concerns Regarding the Direct Payment System
Students at Waterberg TVET college have expressed discontent with the user-friendliness of the NSFAS direct allowance payment system. They argue that the system’s susceptibility to fraudulent activities has disrupted their financial transactions. Additionally, students have faced challenges in tracking their transactions through the system.
Escalation to a Strike
The culmination of dissatisfaction has led to a strike decision among students. Frustration over months of unpaid allowances has propelled this action, with many students asserting that without the allowances, they cannot continue their education. Moreover, concerns have been raised about the excessive bank fees charged by NSFAS-appointed service providers.
Investigating Bank Account Tender Issues
An investigation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) has revealed disparities in bank fees between NSFAS-appointed service providers and established banks. OUTA contends that the fees charged by NSFAS service providers exceed those of conventional banks. The escalated transaction fees have adversely affected students, with an estimated collective payment of around R3 billion throughout the contract duration. Moreover, over 25% of NSFAS-funded students have encountered delays in receiving their allowances.
NSFAS’s Response and Future Steps
NSFAS has pledged to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the allegations brought forth. Should these allegations be substantiated, appropriate actions will be taken. Furthermore, NSFAS has directed service providers to increase their presence at higher education institutions to assist students encountering challenges with the direct allowance payment system.
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