NSFAS- IMPROVING HIGHER EDUCATION?
By: Ziningi Dlamini
Study loan. Tablets. Cash. Food allowances.
These are some of the things that the government has provided to help support students during their higher education studies.
This is a positive turnaround since the country’s apartheid regime, when the majority of students were forced to study in Afrikaans, with very little resources.
Kwenzekile Luthuli (47): “I remember in our day we used to have classes under the trees, until this one day the community decided to build two classrooms because it was winter and most of us got sick with cold. It was made of stones, straw and mud. Imagine having to go to school and knowing you’re going to be forced to learnt every subject in Afrikaans, but still go because we knew there was no future if we decided to drop out of school. We never had books- we used slates for writing and feathers dipped in ink as pens. As for school uniforms, pocket money or even lunch- that we never had.”
Fortunately, this has become a thing of the past. According to Article 11, Acts 6 and 7 in the country’s Bill of Rights, “(6) Education shall be free and compulsory up to the age of sixteen, and provision shall be made for facilitating access to secondary, vocational and tertiary education on an equal basis for all. (7) Education shall be directed towards the development of the human personality and a sense of personal dignity, and shall aim at strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship amongst South Africans and between nations”.
The demand for a higher education qualification has seen the rise of financial aid to support those wanting to further their studies. This has given birth to what is now known as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which provides for needy students. NSFAS also caters for accommodation and book allowances.
The issue at hand though is that the very same needy people given the rights do not respond responsibly i.e. they do not pay for the tuition but pay for the bartender and the club across the street.
Dalisu Gumede, the project officer of Durban University of Technology Student representative council (DUT SRC) said, “As far as I know, most of the students that are being granted this fund utilise it effectively, meaning academic wise, however there are those that completely misuse it.
We have come across a number of cases whereby students are being caught using book allowance for personal things. Two years back, the NSFAS book allowance was given to students via their bank accounts. With the high rate of failing students and the increasing number of students reported drunk just after NSFAS pay day, it was noted that students are using these funds to buy alcohol instead of books and other academic tools.”
“DUT then decided to give students this allowance via their DUT student cards, enabling them to buy items from book shops, added Nhlonipho Mlaba, Chairperson of the DUT, SRC.
Sipho Nxumalo, a Radiography student at DUT said, “I don’t have financial aid myself. I struggle to pay my fees, and not being granted NSFAS was a mystery considering my financial status and my matric results. It’s really painful to find out that such funds are misused yet there are students like me who really need them for academic purposes.
Having to see other students buying treats during lunch time with their food allowance pains me because I know I could put that money to greater use, i.e. paying my fees. I personal think it would be best to take away funds from those who misuse them and give to those who need them the most, and to those whose their academic progress report shows improvement.”