South Africa

HIGHER EDUCATION

Minister Blade Nzimande dissolves NSFAS board while non-payment troubles still plague students

Minister Blade Nzimande dissolves NSFAS board while non-payment troubles still plague students
From left: Former National Student Financial Aid Scheme chair Ernest Khosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti) | Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Gallo Images / ER Lombard)

Chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Ernest Khosa resigned on Thursday before Minister Nzimande announced his decision to dissolve the board.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande dissolved the board of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and placed it under administration on Thursday, as many beneficiaries continue to face non-payment issues. 

At a meeting on Thursday, he informed the board that it had been dissolved with immediate effect. The decision will be published in the Government Gazette on Friday.

NSFAS chairperson Ernest Khosa resigned on Thursday before Nzimande announced his decision to dissolve the board. Khosa was allegedly linked to irregular tenders NSFAS issued to four service providers to manage payments to NSFAS beneficiaries. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: How NSFAS tapes knocked Blade Nzimande against the ropes

Nzimande’s spokesperson, Veli Mbele, told eNCA on Thursday evening, “This was a decision that the minister took to dissolve the board, one, and, secondly, place the institution under administration.

“The minister further indicated through the statement that he will then take the nation into [his] confidence on the rationale for this decision and what this decision means henceforth and this will be communicated in a media briefing and it is important to understand that the minister is the shareholder and the board accounts to the minister.

“So, typically the minister would enter into a shareholders’ compact … He is obliged to assess the performance of any board and take whatever action he deems necessary,” Mbele said.

Mbele said Khoza had resigned willingly and had not been pushed out.

“This is one part of NSFAS and will not have a material impact on the running of NSFAS,” Mbele said.

“It’s not going to have a material or detrimental effect on the payment of allowances. Remember, we have already paid for this month, which is April, and will pay in the next cycle. We don’t anticipate a negative effect on the responsibilities, especially financial support to students.”

Recurring problem

In a statement before announcing the dissolution of the board, Nzimande said he was “aware of, and deeply disturbed by the recurring problem of non-payment of student allowances” by NSFAS.

He announced several “decisive steps” to address NSFAS’s failure to pay students, including establishing a task team, which has already begun working and will visit TVET colleges and universities where students are experiencing problems.

Nzimande said NSFAS had paid more than R511-million to students in the latest payment cycle, but “not all TVET colleges and universities have complied with the NSFAS deadline of 15 March 2024 for the submission of student registration data to facilitate the payment of allowances. The failure to comply by some TVET colleges and universities has contributed to the latest sporadic student protests.”

The minister said the director-general of the Department of Higher Education had been dispatched to meet urgently with NSFAS management “and it was intended to ensure that working with institutions, all outstanding allowances are paid as soon as it is practicable”.

“In addition, NSFAS has sent its servicing administrators to work with the non-compliant TVET colleges and universities to finalise the submission of student registration data and ensure that the outstanding student allowances and tuition are paid in the next payment cycle.”

Nzimande under pressure

DA shadow minister of higher education Chantel King called on Nzimande to resign over the crisis at NSFAS.

“Once again, the non-payment of student allowances has left many students hungry, without funds for food, and even facing the real risk of being put out on the streets.

“This dire situation underscores the urgent need for action to address the systemic failures within NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education — something the DA has been calling for since it became clear that the system was riddled with problems,” she said.

“In light of the resignation of Mr Khosa and the dissolving of the NSFAS board, the DA calls on Minister Nzimande to follow suit and resign with immediate effect. Minister Nzimande cannot be absolved from actions of the board since he has defended the decisions of the board on numerous occasions.”

The South African Students Congress (Sasco) said, “This landmark decision marks a significant victory for the general student population within the public education sector who rely on NSFAS funding to pursue their academic aspirations.”

Sasco said further changes were needed at NSFAS. Despite reports that NSFAS planned to terminate its contracts with the service providers appointed to disburse payments to beneficiaries, student groups said the controversial companies were still responsible for paying their allowances.

“We reiterate our call for the termination of contracts with FinTech companies responsible for administering student allowances. These contracts have been a source of frustration for students and have hindered the efficient disbursement of funds.

“Furthermore, we emphasise the urgent need for structural transformation at an administrative level within NSFAS. The current system is plagued by inefficiencies and bureaucratic hurdles that impede students’ access to financial assistance,” Sasco said.

In a statement on Thursday, the EFF Students’ Command (EFFSC) said it “noted with great concern” that NSFAS was still using “corrupt and incompetent third-party service providers to distribute student allowances”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Time for a ‘revolutionary visit’ — SA Students Congress sounds warning of protests over NSFAS chaos

The EFFSC questioned why the four service providers were still distributing NSFAS funds to beneficiaries despite findings that aspects of their contracts were irregular. 

“Students across all campuses in South Africa have also fallen victim to the gross negligence and inefficiencies of the four direct payment service providers. Whilst others have had to go to class and sleep on empty stomachs because they have not received their allowances at all, others receive amounts which are less than what is due to them according to the NSFAS funding guidelines,” the EFFSC said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    My son with 5 distinctions got awarded a bursary, all he has now is a letter, now we know why.
    The cruelest joke from these criminals.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Nzimande is the fly in our educational ointment. He is on par with his colleagues in parliament when it comes to running his department, ie. with dithering inefficiency and useless planning. SA will never progress with this crowd in control.

  • thetsomohapi says:

    The board is disbanded but the Minister is still running the show, what exactly is happening at higher education financial scheme?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Who cares. Just vote the ANC out.

      • nawbanksia says:

        A lot of people care. The students who have no funds, despite working hard to get admission results (overwhelmingly impoverished Africna students, not the sons and daughters of wealthy parents), and the lecturers and administrators who have to deal with their plights.
        Vote the ANC out? Fine, see how you like the EFF-MK-ANC alliance that will follow.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          Ah so you’ve read your tea leaves then and know all. Let’s just do nothing then while we drown. Sounds like a fine plan.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          I think you mean “we”, because we will all be under the new government and I do understand your concerns but you are guessing. The only things we KNOW are the following:
          1. the ANC is corrupt and incapable
          2. The DA in power or with sufficient strength to hold the government to account WILL improve every South African’s future.
          3. Every vote for the DA helps.

          So don’t live paralyzed and expecting the worst. Fight for better using the weapon democracy gives every one of us: vote DA in 2024 and encourage everyone you know to do the same. You may just be pleasurably surprised.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          … or there’s always your option: to sit here on DM moaning endlessly about the corrupt and incapable government we wiil be responsible for keeping in power, as our beautiful country implodes forever, for us and our children, and their children.

  • craig white says:

    So he is the one soliciting bribes on tape …. And the Board gets disolved …… yip …. Sounds about right in SA …..

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    There needs to be a complete overhaul of the NSFAS scheme and how it has become so completely dysfunctional due to corruption and maladministration, leaving students in incredibly desperate situations and with the possibility of having to abandon studies due to non-payment. The conduct of the Minister also needs to be thoroughly investigated in relation to this travesty, as well as the serious general deterioration of the higher education system.

  • Angus Pringle says:

    I interview many young kids for bursaries and I have seen a large number of issues where kids with really good marks in 1st and 2nd year have just been dropped by NSFAS for no reason. There is withdrawals of funding and delays in funding for almost all of them, its an absolute mess.

  • William Dryden says:

    Since Zuma declared free education for all students, and the social grants etc, we have now become a welfare state, hence the high level of unemployment, why should they get a job when they can get welfare from the state. As for the students, go to any bar in town after they have gotten their student allowances, and they will be seen drinking heartily.

  • Andrew Martin says:

    Totally inept bunch of deployed cadres from Nzimande downwards.

  • Blade was in cahoots with Khoza, why is he still around. This is Cyril’s fault. He’s had 5 years to get rid of the rot, but has left it around to do further damage. Case in point: he did nothing when Arthur Fraser engineered Zuma’s prison break, and now Zuma’s back as a blot on the political landscape. The ANC, for putting party before country, deserves everything that’s coming their way

  • Nick Griffon says:

    Blade should resign.
    He is useless and corrupt

  • Simon Phillip Mabiletsa says:

    This matter requires investigation. Dissolving the Board only is not enough especially when there were allegations of maladministration.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      No it doesn’t. The ANC is incapable and corrupt. Accept it as truth and invest all your energy ii driving change. Vote for better. And encourage everyone you know to do the same.

  • The recent National minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said the NHI financial management would be based on the excellent NSFAS governance principles ?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      So? I’m hurt. I’m dismayed. I’m betrayed. My trust is broken.

      We all know these things.

      The only question you should be asking yourself now is:

      What am I actively doing to help change my country for the the better – for me, for my family, for my friends, for fellow citizens I have never even met?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      So? I’m hurt. I’m dismayed. I’m betrayed. My trust is broken. We all know these things. The only question you should be asking yourself now is: What am I actively doing to help change my country for the the better – for me, for my family, for my friends, for fellow citizens I have never even met?

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Mr Nzimande – dissolving the board does not make you part of the solution.

    It is simply confirmation that you have been failing completely at your job. Why are you being paid again?

    Mr president, when are you going to actually put useful people in charge?

    …after waiting 30 years it can’t be soon enough I’m afraid.

    Vote for change South Africans, avote for the DA is a vote for better.

    And motivate everyone you know to do the same!

  • Andre Swart says:

    Let the banks handle study financing.

    The ANC deliberately set up the NSFAS to enable them to syphon off taxpayer money for cadres’ own pockets!

    Of course under the auspices of ‘ubuntu’ … helping the poor!

    NSFAS will never succeed!

    The only way in which to run a sustainable system for student financing, is to give it to commercial banks!

    Dissolve this inherently corrupt NSFAS!

    Commercial banks are the only institutions that have the capacity to administer study financing because the allocation of
    study financing must always be based on academic merit and proven family income.

    Tax funded study loans should provide for long term repayment at a low interest rate, for collection via the income tax administration (SARS) once a graduate start earning.

    No quasi financial system, such as the current NSFAS administration can be trusted to run study financing, effectively!

    Let the pro’s do the job!

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      A change of government is the only thing that will help. This is not about nuance, it is not about detail. It is simply this: you want professionals? Then get rid of the ANC by voting them out in 2024.

  • Nsfas is failing our children big time. The worst places is at tvet
    colleges. Last year 3 last months were not paid. This year up to so far they are not paid yet.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      The only question is what are you going to do about it. I have an insane idea – how about we all vote for change and encourage everyone we know to do the same.

  • When can the doors of learning be open to all, young and old in this country. When will government offer free quality education to a black child? They taje tbeir children to white schools. Why didnt they build quality education schools in the townships and rural areas. 30 years is too much to continue giving this poisoned education to black children. Those whose families are poor hace no chance of getting same education as white schools. Black child continue receiving useless education that is far more worse than apartheid education.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      This is 2024 and the things we want can happen.

      Now is your chance. Now is my chance. Now is everyone’s chance.

      So lets make it happen. Lets all do the clever thing and encourage everyone we know to vote DA in 2024.

  • Anon Anyone says:

    The suggestion that they have already made payments for April does not gel. The students at my University are apparently going to be paid their allowances etc. On the 22nd April, many are still awaiting allowances for March, and many of the landlords where they are accommodated have not been paid (it has to go through NSFAS) for a fee months and now are evicting the students.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Forget the detail. It’s irrelevant. There is only one important thing to remember. If the DA is big enough to rule or to hold the government to account our country will be able to improve, without this we are all doomed to poverty. So focus on 2 things only: voting DA in 2024, and encouraging everyone you encounter to do the same.

  • Ian McGill says:

    Nobody has yet asked the obvious question, why have a board of directors? Is student funding rocket science? Mr Khosa is accused of favouring certain service provider to dole out the money? So, what does a board do? I know, they have meetings where all they decide is…… when to have the next meeting. Oh, and claim expenses! Travel accommodation, entertainment, bar bills and other necessities.

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