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Friday, June 18, 2021

Student dies of hunger and fatigue while waiting for NSFAS allowance

A student has died homeless and hungry while waiting for her allowance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Yonwabo Manyanya died of hunger and fatigue at the age of 26.

It is alleged that after NSFAS failed to pay her allowance and tuition fees, Manyanya was evicted from her college residence. She allegedly died of hunger and fatigue after spending three days sleeping outside campus.

Manyanya was studying towards a diploma in electrical and infrastructure construction at eThekwini TVET College

The delays in NSFAS funding have caused much outrage across institutions of higher education.

Earlier this month students from the University of South Africa (Unisa) took to twitter this weekend stating that they have not received their NSFAS allowances.

One student said he has been surviving just on water alone. Another said they cannot afford to pay for transport and are forced to walk about 30 minutes to an hour to reach university campus ground. Another said they do not have money to buy data to access coursework material placed online.

In an interview, Unisa Vice-Chancellor Puleng LenkaBula said I truly regretted the situation currently faced by her students saying that NSFAS payments were a structural issue out of the university’s hands.

“Our challenges and complexities derive from the centralisation of NSFAS.

“We depend on NSFAS sending information and also transferring funding  to students that are registered with Unisa.  So even to confirm whether a student is registered or not, we have to engage with NSFAS,” said LenkaBula.

On Monday, Inside Education reported that NSFAS board chairperson, Ernest Khosa, said the funding scheme’s student-centred model is one of the reasons for delays in funding decisions including appeals processing and disbursements.

Khosa said because of the student-centred model, the time it takes for appeals processing, disbursements, weak queries resolution mechanism, policy issues such as the N+ 2 rule, absentee parents, postgraduate funding, and student accommodation takes longer than it should.

The NSFAS board chairperson said the funding scheme’s organisational structure is not aligned to the student-centred model.

NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo said NSFAS is continuing to receive registration data from institutions to process which will allow the funding scheme to be able to make more payments for students.

“The processing and disbursement of allowances to institutions to ensure that students do not sleep hungry has already commenced.

“However, we are aware of some delays in payments as a result of system integration challenges and delayed registration data that needs to be submitted by institutions,” said Nongogo.

Some students have taken to social media to demand answers and voice their concerns.

One student said they think NSFAS is overwhelmed and need better administration of student funding. “For started we need to get SETAs that administer student bursaries out of NSFAS otherwise the problem will persist.”

“The one thing we do not speak of is the poor administration and communication between NSFAS and institutions of higher learning. It is all just messy. We deserve better,” said the student.

Student leader Mthobisi Magudulela said there were many students at the TVET college who had been evicted from their dwellings and had resorted to camping outside the campus hoping for assistance.

Magudulela said the student leadership at the college has received reports of students committing suicide because of the anxiety arising from financial exclusion.

“The tragic death of Yonwabo highlights the neglect and harsh realities faced by poor students at eThekwini college. Her death should not go unpunished. NSFAS, together with the management of the college, must be held to account,” said Magudulela.

He added that for weeks now students have been sleeping outside the campus and some are squatting with friends because landlords have evicted them for non-payment.

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