On 9 March a small group of students were addressed by former Secretary of the South African Student Congress (SASCO), Thulari Jonas, around issues relating to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) book allowances.
On 24/25 February a communication was sent by UP to students, reminding them to apply for book allowances. Some students claim to not have received the communication resulting in them not applying for pay-outs. As the university enters its fourth week of the academic year, some students are still without books and other studying essentials.
Jonas believes the university should foot the bill for these students until NSFAS payouts are received. “The reality of the matter is that we are at week three, there is no book allowance and then students will come to us, so what we want to know now is what should have been done prior to students registering […] NSFAS has allocated funding for each and every one of you, the university has money, the university must take out money and give you for book allowances, they must give you meal allowances, and then when NSFAS pays later that’s when the university will replace their money. Any other thing they will tell you is a lie”, said Jonas.
SRC Secretary Tarik Lalla explained that “the difficulty around it is that NSFAS sends through lists at different points and times throughout the week and that’s why there are students who have their book allowances because they have been on the first list. Unfortunately, it means other students are on lists that come later”. Lalla assured students that the SRC has a promise and guarantee in writing from the office of the Vice-Principal of Student Life, Prof. Themba Mosia, that states that by 21 March all students would have gotten their allowances. However, Lalla cautioned that students who are affected by the NSFAS N+ rule are not included in this guarantee.
Lalla alongside the President of the SRC, Thuto Mashila, assured students that they can assist them with food and sanitary supplies whilst they wait for their book and living allowances. Mashila elaborated on this saying “we are aware that many students may face crisis around food and sanitary products. We are in a position to assist. […] I know the DSA has various programs, if need be you can contact me or comrade Jonno and from there we can assist”. Students are also encouraged to share books amongst each other until payouts can be made. “The DSA has a program for students without funding that assists them with getting textbooks, but we can try to take you to that program if you are under pressure and you are writing tests soon” said Mashila.
On 10 March students gathered again outside of the SRC office, hoping for a solution. The SRC addressed them and touched on the NSFAS laptops that were received by some students in 2021. The SRC told students that those who received both a laptop and the book allowance last year, might not get their book allowance this year as the money has to be used to repay the laptop. “We still have to review the contracts that students signed with NSFAS last year.” Lalla went on to indicate that they are not sure what was communicated to students in 2021 regarding the contractual obligations of laptops because they were not in the SRC office at the time.
Mashila was also present and presented a list that had the status of various student’s funding. The list however contained information that students already have access to; which states that there is no money allocated for them at the university from NSFAS. Mashila told students that there is also a possibility that they may be cut off from funding.
This a developing story.
Images: Susanna Anbu