By Gaby Ndongo (4 mins read)
The previous week saw protests in several campuses across the country. They occurred at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Westville campus, University of South Africa’s Pietermaritzburg campus and North West University’s Mafikeng campus.
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) called for a total shutdown of universities. It was in response to the breakdown of discussions late last year between SAUS and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET).
Those talks were based on the demands made by SAUS and student leaders from various student representative councils.
These demands are the cancellation of historic student debt, re-opening of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) applications for prospective university students, free registration for vulnerable, poor students, and improvement of dire student accommodation and infrastructure, as reported by GroundUp.
“Funding has been allocated more than once to address debt of NSFAS qualifying students,” according to a statement issued by DHET minster, Blade Nzimande.
“Last year approximately R1 billion was set aside by government to support over 50 000 students who were registered in 2018 carrying student debt – their debt is being processed by NSFAS. So far about R450 millions of this historic debt has been cleared,” it reads.
Nzimande pens in an earlier statement that “public funds for the university system are constrained and there is no possibility that debts of students who are not NSFAS-qualifying can be eradicated by government”.
Beneficiaries with outstanding debt from 2019 must have the needed academic scores and sign the acknowledgement of debt form to enroll for the year. An outcome resulting to SAUS putting an end to the national shutdown, according to the Sowetan Live.
Furthermore, “first time entering students who are admitted to universities but did not apply for NSFAS for whatever reason, will be able to register by signing an AOD,” read the first statement.
“NSFAS will process their applications in partnership with the university, and if they are eligible for funding, they will receive the bursary and the students will carry no debt going forward,” it adds.
NSFAS 2020 appeal
NSFAS announced on Monday, 6th January, the number of applications it had received for the 2020 academic year.
There was a total of 473 911 valid and fully completed applications: 346 364 (currently eligible for funding), 36 865 (withdrawn by applicants), 61 703 (submitted personal details with documents of poor quality), and 28 979 (not meeting minimum funding criteria, but subject for review).
On the other hand, it expected a number of students from TVET colleges to apply after they have registered in January. Last year saw 160 000 students.
The next step is the appeals process. Appeals are submitted with a motivation of no more than 1000 words through the myNSFAS account. This account further indicates the reason why an application was declined.
Online appeals are only designated for applicants who applied for the first time during the 2019 September to November period.
For those who were funded by the scheme in 2019 but did not qualify for assistance in 2020, the appeals need to be done at their respective institutions’ financial aid offices.
The appeal window closes on Friday, 28th February 2020. TOJ
Reporting by Gaby Ndongo. Feature image by Retha Ferguson from Pexels.