By Thuletho Zwane and Ray Mahlaka

WITS students will not be affected by a reported R42-million shortfall in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the university told Wits Vuvuzela.

According to media reports, the department of higher education reported the shortfall in the NSFAS budget to Parliament last month.

The announcement resulted in student protests at the University of South Africa (Unisa).

Wits financial aid status

Wits Financial Aid Office manager Busisiwe Sithole said Wits students are not affected by the constraints in the NSFAS national budget.

“Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,” Sithole said.

SRC treasurer Justice Nkomo rejected this and said 200 Wits students have been turned down for NSFAS funding.

Nkomo argued that the Wits NSFAS administration system had problems.

“The system is not perfect, the system has many loopholes,” said Nkomo. “I don’t know, if they say ‘there is no money crisis’ where is that coming from.”

Financially excluded Wits students

Nkomo said there were a number of students who were financially excluded, with some owing as much as R36 000.

He said there were students who didn’t receive NSFAS funding and instead had to receive help from the humanitarian fund.

[pullquote]”Wits has not been affected by the NSFAS funding. The Unisa issue is a separate issue. Wits is alright, there are no funding issues,”[/pullquote]The R3-million fund is an initiative by the Wits SRC and the university  registrar to assist students caught in emergency situations without food and other basic needs.

“We need a permanent mechanism that handles fees. There is no plan here, there is rhetoric. We have entered into negotiation with management,” Nkomo said.

Nkomo said Wits needed permanent funding that goes to the humanitarian fund.

He said the SRC did not plan on leading a protest but would instead follow official channels to solve funding issues.

“Last year NSFAS did not open for second round because there was no money. This year there won’t be a second round. This is why we call for free education,” he said.

Second round is a decision by NSFAS to allocate more funding to students when there is enough money in the budget within the same year.

Administrative issues at Wits and Unisa

Nkomo said administrative issues within NSFAS at Wits can also be attributed to students not submitting all documents during the application process, which leads to their applications being denied.

Unisa SRC secretary general Ayanda Mngadi said the university is using its own money to fund students as NSFAS said, “they don’t have money”.

Related articles:

NSFAS Central Application System launches next year,  May 16, 2013

Financial Aid funding late again, March 28, 2011

editor@witsvuvuzela.com