NATIONAL NEWS - Following the announcement of the countrywide lockdown by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) activated a business continuity plan to facilitate uninterrupted funding to students.
The plan is also aimed at the resolution of student applications queries, processing of appeals, and general assistance to institutions with NSFAS administration.
This week, the NSFAS has urged qualifying students to open bank accounts to ensure a more efficient disbursement of funds from institutions.
NSFAS administrator, Dr Randall Carolissen, said the scheme is working on a banking model that will eliminate all intermediaries in the disbursement value chain. The model will also facilitate direct deposits from NSFAS into student bank accounts.
“At present NSFAS, through its NSFAS Wallet, is already paying directly to students from 32 of the 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges. During this week, NSFAS will be extending this facility to three additional colleges to ensure improved flow of funds directly to students. Students will be informed accordingly,” Carolissen said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the administrator emphasised that ensuring students receive their allowances during this time of general hardship and uncertainty is essential.
“Students are entitled to their allowances in order to sustain themselves, continue with academic activities online, as well as to pay for learning materials.”
Carolissen explained that students are funded once a registration template has been received, which will allow for a proper determination of their allowance structure.
From end of March 2020 to date, NSFAS received registration data for 614 986 students from TVET colleges across the sector, and was able to process virtually all of the 150 000 applications received from the walk-in application process.
Carolissen said the walk-in process in the first quarter was developed as a special consideration to assist students that registered for the 2020 academic year, but had not applied during the application cycle.
“This is a legacy issue that NSFAS has improved considerably, as the large number of walk-ins from TVET colleges was the de facto situation prevalent in prior years. Another important milestone is the record number of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries now funded by NSFAS of 334 868 -- a massive increase from that received in 2019,” Carolissen said.
Over R7 billion paid out
By 17 April 2020, NSFAS disbursed over R7.2 billion (some 20% of the total Higher Education and Training grant) for tuition and allowances to public institutions and qualifying students.
Carolissen said in the week starting from 20 April 2020, NSFAS will distribute April allowances, based on actual registration data received from 376 659 university students and 202 681 TVET college students.
“For applications with outstanding and incorrect documents, NSFAS made significant strides in reducing the number from over 42 000 prior to the lockdown, to just under 12 882 to date. NSFAS would like to urge the remaining applicants, who have been contacted to resubmit these documents to do so, as soon as possible through provided and authenticated platforms.
“For 9 224 applicants, additional information was required, as the income verified by NSFAS exceeded income declared by the applicant. Cognisant of the fact that household circumstances can change over a relative short time, NSFAS contacted these applicants to re-submit additional information, to which just under 3 000 had responded in the affirmative,” Carolissen said.
Meanwhile, NSFAS has approved 4 980 appeals from first time entry applicants and approved 14 117 of returning student appeals, as recommended by the institutions.
Operations during the lockdown
Carolissen said the process of engagement with institutions is ongoing as some institutions are ham-strung by the lockdown to convene appeals committee meetings.
“Through an establishment of a virtual contact centre for operations during the lockdown, NSFAS has been processing 4 390 inquiries daily, with a large number emanating in case finalisation.
"We remain fully functional and accessible through these platforms to ensure that students’ inquiries are attended to as soon as possible,” Carolissen said.
NSFAS is accessible on the following platforms from 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday:
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: National Student Financial Aid Scheme
- Twitter: myNSFAS
- Instagram: myNSFAS
- NSFAS Connect: www.nsfas.org.za and log into your myNSFAS account.
Students, who do not have myNSFAS accounts, need to register to track their funding decisions, and to receive regular updates.
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