POLOKWANE – “This was one of the main issues bothering students who have not yet received their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding this year. The money was advanced by the university as a loan to the students and we already started paying it into their bank accounts as from midnight tonight,” Prof Mahlo Mokgalong, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the university, told Review on Wednesday.
He said students would commence with lessons on Monday following the closing of the campus for two days on Tuesday this week.
University of Limpopo students on Monday started protest actions and the Student Representative Council called on staff “to abstain and distance themselves from the premises of the university until further communication from the SRC”.
Students were called upon to gather and demands were outlined, namely the students’ allowances (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) to be paid immediately, the appointment of a students’ Dean, insourcing, cash withdrawals with immediate effect and funding so that students could buy “whatever and wherever they want, e.g. gadgets”.
On Tuesday the university’s activities were suspended.
Mokgalong confirmed that no damage has been done to campus infrastructure by students and that the university was to attend to the students’ challenges during the two days the university was closed.
Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor over the weekend announced that 2019 applications for National Students, to have opened on 1 August, were put on hold until this year’s financial aid backlog was cleared.
According to a statement issued on 29 July by Kagisho Mamabolo, NSFAS Spokesperson, more than 20 000 applications with no supporting documents for 2018 have not yet been finalised.
In order for NSFAS to finalise this process, an online platform was opened for these specific students to allow them to upload the missing supporting documents. He said to date NSFAS has disbursed allowances to more than 365 000 students through the institution and sBux channels
Mamabolo said there were some 70 338 first time entering students who have not yet signed their NSFAS Bursary Agreements (NBA) or Schedule of Particulars (SOP’s) and 29 610 students whose registration data was only received recently. The closing date for all students to sign their NBA was July 31, and disbursements would only be done for students that have signed, noting that senior students that qualified for renewal will automatically be generated for payment with no new NBA. This means that students who have not signed their agreements will not be receiving any allowances.
He said the NSFAS board and management in partnership with the institutions are working around the clock to ensure that all funded students receive their contracts and students are encouraged to sign these contracts to ensure that all funded students receive their allowances timely. Appeals and queries are attended to through the NSFAS servicing centre, fast tracking the appeals process related decisions.
“The process of ensuring that all students at institution are accounted for in the funding decisions remains the core focus of NSFAS Board and Executive Management. We are working with universities, TVET Colleges and the Department of Higher Education and Training to ensure that all remaining qualifying students receive their funding and allowances, ” Mamabolo stated.