It was announced that students would be paid allowances, yet many of them have still not received anything.  

Disbursement of NSFAS living allowances has been officially under way at University of South Africa (Unisa) since May 12, but thousands of students are still waiting for their monthly stipend.  

An advisory posted by Unisa on May 19 said Intellimali, a privately owned company administering funds on behalf of the university, had loaded disbursement for about 65 000 students out of the 117 000 sent through by Unisa. 

Students said on Twitter they still have not received payment, despite announcements by the university. Many took to social media under the hashtag #UselessUnisa to vent their dissatisfaction.  

Musawenkosi Hoza, a second-year law student, told Wits Vuvuzela, “There have been a few announcements by the institution regarding this, [but] such information … comes after students have held protests either on the streets or on social media. The communication is always forced and never provides much clarity on the issue.”   

Sha-dé van der Haar, a second-year psychology and criminology student, said communication from the university regarding the issue had been relayed via one-sided announcements or posts on social media.  

An article released by Inside Education on May 17 reported that the student funding division of Unisa said it was attending to queries as quickly as possible, “but there are some activities that are being affected by the lockdown, such as the processing of allowances, refunds, stipends and allocations”. 

For book allowances, disbursement was not done at the start of the academic year. Instead, students started receiving payments only at the end of May. 

“For many, that meant missing all their first assignments, and not having access to textbooks and other material,’’ Van der Haar told Wits Vuvuzela. ‘‘It affects the marks one gets. It affects your mental health.” 

In an advisory on May 12, Unisa announced that returning students would start receiving their allowances that same day: “Allowances will be disbursed in batches (15 000 students a day) until Wednesday 19 May 2021,” it said. For new students, allowances would be disbursed only once NSFAS had finalised its list of approved students.  

In a May 19 article, Unisa spokesperson Victor Dlamini told Sunday Times payments had started on May 13 to about 67% of the 175 778 beneficiaries who qualified for the once-off learning material allowance of R5 200.   

In an eNCA interview on May 16, Unisa Vice-Chancellor Puleng LenkaBula said she ‘‘truly regrets’’ the situation faced by her students. She attributed it to a structural issue out of the university’s hands.  

“We depend on NSFAS sending information and also transferring funding to students registered with Unisa,’’ LenkaBula said. ‘‘So even to confirm whether a student is registered or not, we have to engage with NSFAS. And our CFO has been engaging NSFAS so that we accelerate student access.”  

Simon Yika, a fourth-year bachelor of education student, said although he received his book allowance on May 21, it came after a struggle. “It is my fourth year being funded by NSFAS and this delay of disbursing allowances is a new thing. I am not sure whether or not we are going to get our monthly living allowances,” Yika told Wits Vuvuzela. 

Hoza told Wits Vuvuzela he has been a beneficiary of NSFAS in the past, and this year had been the worst to date. “They failed dismally to meet more than three deadlines they initially made to disburse student allowances,” he said.  

Wits Vuvuzela contacted Unisa and NSFAS for comment, but no response had been received from either of them at the time of publication.  

FEATURED IMAGE: A student on the NSFAS website. Photo: File