Af­ter grad­u­a­tion

Gaps in fi­nan­cial aid sys­tem see grad­u­ates still re­ceiv­ing funds

CityPress - - News - ZAMAYIRHA PETER zamayirha.peter@city­press.co.za

While many stu­dents are strug­gling to get fund­ing for their stud­ies, some grad­u­ates are still ben­e­fit­ing from the Na­tional Stu­dents Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (Ns­fas) months af­ter grad­u­at­ing.

Some for­mer stu­dents from the Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity (WSU) and the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ) were still ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Ns­fas, de­spite no longer qual­i­fy­ing.

A for­mer stu­dent at the Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity said one of her friends has been boast­ing about still re­ceiv­ing money from the schol­ar­ship af­ter re­ceiv­ing more than R13 000 since the be­gin­ning of the year.

“Af­ter our grad­u­a­tion my close friends and I started a What­sApp group to go on an out­ing to cel­e­brate our achieve­ment.

“My friend then texted in the group, say­ing she has been re­ceiv­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tions from Ns­fas about money be­ing given to her. We laughed at her with dis­be­lief, and asked her to show us the no­ti­fi­ca­tions. She sent us the screen shots of the no­ti­fi­ca­tions of money sent to her by Ns­fas. Sathi masambe siy­oy­itya le mali (we planned to go out and spend the money), but af­ter a while we told her to re­port the mat­ter.”

City Press was sent the con­ver­sa­tions and Ns­fas In­tel­liMali bal­ances SMSes.

The stu­dent, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, said her friend called Ns­fas and was told there was noth­ing they could do about it as the money was al­ready with her.

The Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity re­ferred City Press to Ns­fas. “Your ques­tion should be di­rected at Ns­fas, who man­age the sBux sys­tem. WSU does not use sBux so this ques­tion is not for WSU. Your source/s have their facts mixed up.” (See box)

An­other stu­dent, from the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg, told City Press he was funded through­out his un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies by Ns­fas, but was not funded for his hon­ours.

How­ever, he claimed he still re­ceives the sBux al­lowances. “This whole Ns­fas thing con­fuses me be­cause when I went to the Ns­fas con­sul­tants at UJ, they told me they choose who gets given Ns­fas, and they do not give Ns­fas to many post­grad­u­ate stu­dents. But un­til the end of June I have been get­ting al­lowances from Ns­fas, un­til I got an SMS in­form­ing me my card has been blocked and I must come to them if I want to find out why.”

He said in the past six months he re­ceived in al­lowances to the value of R3 000.

“I think I was lucky be­cause I also work so for me, un­like stu­dents who solely rely on the grant, the money felt like it was my luck. I didn’t re­turn it. I just used it.”

In its re­sponse, Ns­fas asked to be pro­vided with the “de­tails of the al­leged stu­dents and de­tailed in­ci­dents”. “Ns­fas will need to ver­ify the below state­ments, by then we will be able to give a sub­stan­tial re­sponse with each in­di­vid­ual case.”

How­ever, Ns­fas pro­vided sta­tis­tics of how many stu­dents it was fund­ing this year.

“Ns­fas has con­firmed fund­ing to more than 188 000 First Time En­ter­ing Stu­dents (FTENs). ..138 000 ap­pli­ca­tions have been as­sessed and qual­ify for fund­ing but they do not have aca­demic ad­mis­sion. The chal­lenge of no ad­mis­sion data means that we have not re­ceived any sub­stan­tial proof that the stu­dent has reg­is­tered or is cur­rently in class,” said

The sBux Sys­tem

In Jan­uary 2014, Ns­fas in­tro­duced a new sys­tem called sBux to pay el­i­gi­ble stu­dents their al­lowances in the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories: food, books, pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion and travel.

How does sBux work?

● If you are el­i­gi­ble for al­lowances, Ns­fas will pay your al­lowances in the form of vouch­ers sent to your cell­phone.

● The vouch­ers have a unique num­ber and can only be used once.

● You are able to spend th­ese sBux vouch­ers at reg­is­tered sBux mer­chants.

● If you re­ceive travel al­lowances, you are able to re­deem cash vouch­ers at Sho­prite, Check­ers, Boxer, U-Save and se­lect Spar stores.

● You may not re­deem your food, books or pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion vouch­ers for cash. Ns­fas in a state­ment.

Speak­ing on be­half of Mzwakhe Matukane, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor: fi­nan­cial gov­er­nance and rev­enue, UJ me­dia li­ai­son Herman Ester­huizen said the in­sti­tu­tion did not use sBux vouch­ers.

He said all UJ al­lowances were dis­bursed through a ser­vice provider.

“We have a monthly rec­on­cil­i­a­tion that en­sures cor­rect pay­ments are made to reg­is­tered stu­dents only. Ns­fas pays on a claims ba­sis. That means we are re­quired to sub­mit a claim be­fore the pay­ment is re­leased to stu­dents. There­fore all non-reg­is­tered stu­dents are ex­cluded from the process.”

Ester­huizen said uni­ver­si­ties and Ns­fas had a re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure ev­ery­thing was done above board. “Uni­ver­si­ties are partly re­spon­si­ble be­cause they ac­ti­vate the claims process. How­ever, Ns­fas has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to man­age the process from their end.”

Ester­huizen ac­knowl­edged there were gaps in the sys­tem. “The cur­rent Ns­fas process re­quires ur­gent in­ter­ven­tion. It has neg­a­tively im­pacted the uni­ver­si­ties’ nor­mal process and stu­dents. Uni­ver­si­ties are work­ing with Ns­fas and the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to ad­dress the chal­lenges.”

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