sBUX TO SAVE STUDENTS FROM THEMSELVES
By Nompilo Kunene
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has come up with a new system in universities to save students from themselves.
sBux is a new cellphone payment system which NSFAS uses to pay students’ allowances and was developed by the Celbux company. Students are now going to receive their financial aid through a voucher system for things like textbooks, food and accommodation, meaning that students will now receive cash.
NSFAS representatives said that they have already started rolling-out the trial phase of the new system at some universities. Already more than 50 000 students have applied during the phase-one trial project. Those who are not yet included in the roll-out include the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in Durban. Students in this institution will continue to receive their financial aid benefits through the old system where they swipe at the cafeterias and receive the other half of their meal allowance through their e-wallet cards.
NSFAS Chief Executive Officer, Msulwa Daca, said that the changes are aimed at improving the efficiency of the administration of financial aid by ensuring that funding reaches the intended students on time. Although this is said it is still not the case as many universities are still striking over matters concerning NSFAS. By the last week of February, some NSFAS funded students were still unregistered.
“The distribution of the money to students will be done through various mechanisms and one of them will be piloting cellphone distribution, where students will get the cellphone voucher with their food voucher or their accommodation voucher and they will be able to pay the merchants using the voucher system”, .” Daca explained.
Tuition and residence fees will however still be paid through university accounts. Daca added that they have already signed agreements with major retailers which sell food.
DUT SRC Media and Publicity Officer Sanele Dlamini claimed that this system will be implemented to make sure that students use the money they are given wisely thus the DUT SRC welcomes the change.
The University of Cape Town is one of the universities which have started using sBux . Students there have gone as far as to say that this system “sucks”. According to an article published in the Cape Argus, the UCT Student Representative Council president, Nommangaliso Gondwe, said that the SRC rejected sBux, claiming that “students have to repay NSFAS when they get jobs. They therefore had the right to manage their funds as they deemed appropriate. The new system limited students’’ choices… sBux supports big business and disadvantaged small businesses and entrepreneurs.” Therefore they are fighting that the system be removed and the old system be put back in place.
NSFAS spokeswoman Lauren Vanacore said that the scheme provided loans and bursaries to more than 430 000 students at 25 universities and 50 further education colleges. “The budget for this is over R9 billions of taxpayer’s money,.” said Vanacore. “This is quite different from a bank or other high interest commercial loans to students, usually with security from their parents, which they can spend as they wish.” She said that sBux has been introduced on a trial basis to improve distribution of allowances to students.