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Thousands of Nsfas students’ funding at risk

2020-01-06 05:00

This year’s prospective students face the possibility of being refused financial aid due to missing documents, but Nsfas insists it didn’t lose them.

Thousands of university students may find themselves unfunded and stranded at the beginning of this academic year.

During the November and December period, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) allegedly lost the supporting documents of more than 100 000 students, including those confirming their eligibility for funding.

As a result, the public announcement of how many students will be funded, which is usually made ahead of the publication of matric exam results, will not happen on Monday, as initially planned.

However, Nsfas spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo denied allegations that the scheme had lost the documents, instead blaming students for not providing the required documents in the first place.

The application system is automated and has no human interference or intervention, so claims that supporting documents of applicants have been lost do not hold water. Applicants have control over their own applications
Ishmael Mnisi

Ishmael Mnisi, Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande’s spokesperson, said Nzimande had decided that, over the next few weeks, he would conduct two media briefings in response to the outcomes of matric results and regarding the state of readiness of Nsfas for this academic year.

“Nsfas funding is linked to a student both meeting financial requirements for such funding and being registered in an accredited full undergraduate qualification programme at a public university or technical and vocational education and training [TVET] college,” said Mnisi.

“Nsfas is responsible for informing students of their financial eligibility status. Students who have applied for and are offered a placement at a university or TVET college will be able to register. Once they have registered, they will be funded if they are eligible,” Mnisi said.

He added that Nzimande would continue to meet with higher education stakeholders regarding their state of readiness for the academic year.

Mamabolo said their system required that applications be accompanied by the correct supporting documents.

“The application system is automated and has no human interference or intervention, so claims that supporting documents of applicants have been lost do not hold water. Applicants have control over their own applications, as well as over the submission of their supporting documents,” he said.

Mamabolo would neither confirm nor deny the alleged postponement of the funding eligibility announcement.

He said that in the statement issued on December 15, they had indicated that funding decisions would be released via the myNsfas portal.

“We still want to urge applicants to keep checking their status update on the portal. Those who have received communication to do so should use the opportunity to upload missing supporting documents online.”

Mamabolo said Nsfas was working closely with the department of higher education, science and technology “to resolve some of the challenges in the processing and presentation of student funding data”.

Nsfas’s IT system is in limbo. The greatest challenge will be the disadvantaging of poor students. They will suffer and we are likely to see disruptions. The entity is in ICU
Molebatsi Tuka

However, Molebatsi Tuka, the regional organiser for the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union in the Western Cape, said disruptions should be anticipated at universities and TVET colleges this year.

“Nsfas’s IT system is in limbo. The greatest challenge will be the disadvantaging of poor students. They will suffer and we are likely to see disruptions. The entity is in ICU.”

City Press has also seen a 360-page report issued by the office of Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, dated March 30 2019, which was communicated to

on October 8.

The report detailed issues picked up during the 2018/19 financial audit relating to the unreliability of data, which could affect future funding commitments, poor management of finances and IT systems at the entity.

Amid these developments, City Press also learnt that Carolissen refused to be monitored by the department.

A whistleblower, whose name is known to City Press, was fired by Nsfas around October after she had leaked a recording of an executive committee meeting where Carolissen allegedly planned to ignore an oversight team that was scheduled to be deployed by the department.

The leaked recording, which was sent by the whistleblower to two officials in the department around May, found its way back to Nsfas.

In the recording, Carolissen discusses plans with his executive committee to appoint experts at a cost of R26 million to assist him in his administration.

Listen to the recording here:

Carolissen can be heard saying: “So then eventually I think she [former education minister Naledi Pandor] got what I was saying to her and she said: ‘We will have another chat. ‘I said to her: ‘I’m tired of this constant baiting about [recording unclear].’ Perhaps we should bring a board on board and oversight committee ... I report to no oversight committee. If they come here, they can go and sit there [recording unclear] and look at the graves for the whole day. I don’t care … but I’m not reporting to an oversight committee.”

In another part of the recording, Carolissen repeated: “I made it absolutely clear to them that if you bring an oversight committee, I will put them in [an office overlooking a graveyard] and they will look at the graves the whole day.

“I’m not going to report to anybody and I will actually list it as wasteful expenditure because you could have given us that money to employ experts.”

Listen to the recording here:

Carolissen responded to questions from City Press, saying: “All whistleblowing is managed through our forensic department with the assistance of independent investigators and, since there may be criminal investigations emanating from such, we would be irresponsible if we commented on such cases.”

A similar response was made by Mamabolo on the matter.

Mnisi confirmed that the recording had been sent to Nsfas.


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January 26 2020