By Magnificent Mndebele
The Director of Finance at the University of Johannesburg, Mzwakhe Matukane, promises to urgently aid NSFAS students after the APK-SRC members approached him to address concerns of students which some trepidations include possible evictions from residences.
“What we did during registration is that for the list of students that NSFAS confirmed that are funded we sent it to private accommodations to say these are the students that are funded by NSFAS, can you assist?”
“The very same students even though they did not sign contracts were given book allowances by UJ. And the arrangement was that as soon as the students sign contracts then we would be able to assist in terms of paying for accommodations allowance,” said Matukane.
The Student Representative Council at Auckland Park Kingsway Campus today in the morning, accompanied by a minority of students went to deliver ten concerns of the students.
The concerns that were delivered that are related to NSFAS include possible eviction of students from accommodations, signing of contracts, NSFAS-funded students’ final-year meal allowance, appeal results, some students that were funded last year by NSFAS this year have not yet been funded and Postgraduate students who applied for funding have not yet been replied.
“To resolve an issue in a more structured way… if we get the student numbers we would be able to…understand which students are at a higher risk at the moment,” said Matukane.
“Now the risk on UJ side is that if the students who have not signed the loan agreement forms are given the allowances it means that UJ must take the money and pay private accommodations when NSFAS have not confirmed,” he adds.
But the Postgraduate students cannot be assured of anything because NSFAS has not yet given anyone a feedback and therefore UJ cannot urge residences to keep Postgraduate students because if they stay longer, the more they will be liable to debts should they be not funded at all.
However, Matukane also raised some deceitful methods that students who have never applied at all for NSFAS use SMSs lying to private accommodations that they are funded by NSFAS, as a result this double their workload and leads to more derailment to finalise the finances of students.
“Another thing we have picked up is that NSFAS has sent SMSs to students saying you have been funded, for some reasons, that SMS has been replicated to other students who never applied for NSFAS and the same students have used the SMS to get a private accommodation.”
“And when [those accommodations] send us the list and [we discover that some students have not applied at all] it makes our job very difficult because now you are dealing with fraudulent cases, you are dealing with legitimate cases as well,” said Matukane.
Also, “the students who have applied for NSFAS and have not received the outcome from NSFAS to us it means they are not funded and the reason is that they are still evaluating your applications or there is a chance that you will not be funded in 2017,” Matukane added.
Students who are currently doing their final year of study Makutane reassured that most of the issues will be resolved by next week and they will get the meal allowance including the months that have passed. But those who did their final year of study in 2016 and had to repeat certain modules this year won’t be given meal allowance.
There are about 240 students whose tuition fees have not been paid by NSFAS in 2016, and UJ is struggling with that now because NSFAS is unable to confirm that these students are funded in 2017.
“Remember NSFAS in 2016 funded students and they did not have to apply for 2017, so NSFAS said ‘we will transfer you into 2017 on condition that we have paid for you in 2016’ so if they have not paid, it means they cannot confirm 2017 funding, that is the case but hence I am saying these are internal issues that we are engaging with NSFAS that the students are affected,” articulated Matukane.
Since from the beginning of signing Loan Agreement Forms (LAFs) until to the 18th of May, there are 13 953 LAFs created by NSFAS and signed, 2 295 LAFs that were created but have not yet been signed, so in total there are 16 212 LAFs that have been created on NSFAS.
On Conduit funding – which includes DSD, Funza and Thuthuka bursaries – there are 182 LAFs created but have not yet been signed and 352 were created and signed.
Cases of registration data on students sent to NSFAS and no loan agreements created in total including NSFAS-funded and Conduit funding are 1 997.
The UJ-APK SRC and the Director of Student Finance concluded that the students should send their student numbers and their queries to the SRC, next week Monday the latest, SRC will send the student numbers to the Director and the Director is likely next week to go to Cape Town’s NSFAS offices for a meeting to discuss the issues.
When the SRC went to deliver the outcries, it is not only NSFAS students who are affected, but also students who are doing Social Work that are funded by the Department of Social Development (DSD). They complained that DSD decided to cut their stipends by 75% without providing a ground and solid explanation.
The Open Journal has obtained an email where the students addressed the issue to DSD but an individual named as Vuyelwa Mngadi who is said to be a Manager at DSD, replied to the email by saying “please inform all [your] fellow student[s] that with effect from 2017, the stipend was reduced, all the big monies you planned on getting will not be paid,” reads the email.
“I don’t owe students any explanation; if a decision is taken at the meeting with the committee, we send the message to universities and they implement. This is DSD’s decision for your record, so I have no explanation to do to anyone.”
“Refrain sending me mail because I have other things to do than explain myself to anyone,” further reads the email sent by Vuyelwa Mngadi to the students who needed to know why their allowance was cut from R 11 200 per annum to R2 800.
The Open Journal will investigate the concerns of DSD students in a more detailed manner to thoroughly understand what has caused such cut as some of the students funded by DSD strongly believe that malice and corruption are involved.
The Social Workers’ students say they are required to travel to far places and should use the very same stipend that has been reduced by 75% to buy formal attire because they are obligated to wear in a formal manner when going to the agencies.
They further uttered that “every month we have to complain to DSD to give us the money. Every month we should toitoi to get our money.” TOJ