Gaps in financial aid system see graduates still receiving funds
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.”