The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) exists to provide bursaries to eligible students at TVET colleges and public universities.
This is part of their mission statement, as stated on the nsfas.org.za website.
It’s a wonderful service, and with tertiary education being unaffordable for most people these days, it’s great that the state-funded scheme targets hard-working, poor and working class families.
But while our brilliant matriculants are rising above their difficult circumstances to ace their exams, NSFAS is failing many of them when it comes to processing and approving their applications.
Case in point is Mitchells Plain matriculant Aneeqah Sarels, 17.
The Cedar High School star pupil got six distinctions at an average of 86% – you can’t get more deserving than that.
But instead of being rewarded for her achievement, she was left confused and disappointed when her bursary application was denied.
The rejection letter from NSFAS said Aneeqah did not qualify as her family’s combined household income was more than R350 000 per year threshold.
Her breadwinner father’s payslips, however, show this was clearly not the case.
The family has tried everything to appeal the rejection – writing to NSFAS, going online and visiting their offices – but no luck.
In the meantime, Aneeqah, who had her heart set on studying law at Stellenbosch University, has been handed a lifeline by the University of Cape Town.
After reading about her plight, UCT has offered her gap funding for her studies, meaning she can register and study until NSFAS gets their act together.
Aneeqah’s struggle is not unique.
Soon after publishing her “Bursary Blunder” article, the Daily Voice received at least 20 complaints from bursary applicants who had experienced the exact same problem.
We even received emails from families as far afield as Gauteng and Free State, showing just how widespread the problem is.
You feel for all these students and parents.
NSFAS has been terrible with communication.
Granted, they are busy this time of year, they’d received 906 429 applications for 2022 by the 21 January deadline.
After “processing” the Daily Voice’s request for comment for over a week, spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo finally responded on Thursday.
He said all unsuccessful applicants were given a list of documents they need to re-submit in order for NSFAS to assess the application for the second time.
Aneeqah’s dad needs to submit his 2021 ITA34 form, he added. Let’s see...
The starting date for appeals was 3 February.
“Appeals should be submitted within 30 days after the appearance of the ‘unsuccessful’ status. Appeals submitted via email will not be accepted,” NSFAS announced.
But when you go onto the portal, it’s down.
It seems the rush to submit appeals led to a spike in traffic that crashed the site.
On Tuesday, NSFAS tweeted: “We are experiencing high traffic volume on the myNSFAS Portal.
“Please note that we are arranging urgent system upgrades and as a result, the portal will be offline... until further notice.
“Please note that all affected applicants, including those who would like to appeal their application outcomes, will be granted additional time to do so once the system is back online. We apologise for the inconvenience.”
Reminder to all NSFAS Applicants pic.twitter.com/1CYJbvr0H6— NSFAS (@myNSFAS) February 8, 2022
Eish. It’s a deurmekaar business, and it’s leaving arme students stranded and parents furious.
Just how deurmekaar? Well, this is the same institution that accidentally transferred R14 million into Walter Sisulu University student Sibongile Mani’s bank account in 2017.
The 31-year-old accounting student was found guilty of theft after she splurged R818 000 of her jackpot instead of reporting the error.
An East London court found that no one at NSFAS was to blame, and that the erroneous payment was due to a systems error caused by a “ridiculous or absurd” technical glitch or a hacker.
Who knows what other ridiculous glitches are not being reported.
Please NSFAS, get your house in order, for the sake of our future.