- Deputy President Paul Mashatile says that he expects NSFAS to propose a new model to fund its 1.1 million student beneficiaries in 2024.
- For most of this year, NSFAS has been under fire for the botched rollout of the direct payment system.
- The rollout led to the firing of NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo and the supposed removal of the system’s four fintech partners. Essentially it brings NSFAS back to square one.
It’s been a long year for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). In July this year while students across universities and TVET colleges were enjoying the mid-year break, the scheme launched a new digital-focused direct payment system thanks to a partnership with four fintech companies in South Africa.
What was initially hoped to be a method to give more options to its 1.1 million beneficiaries and increase their comfort with digital payments, what eventually occurred with the direct payment system was a billion Rand debacle that resulted in missed payments, furious students, allegations of corruption, the axing of the NSFAS CEO, the supposed firing of the four fintech partners and now it looks like NSFAS may be forced to go back to square one.
Answering questions in the National Assembly on Thursday, Deputy President Paul Mashatile said he expects NSFAS to propose a new model to fund its 1.1 million student beneficiaries to be brought before Cabinet before the beginning of 2023.
The proposed funding model seeks to ensure that in the new academic year, particularly 2024, there will be the following: a retention of existing funding for poor students in the income bracket of R0 to R350 000 per annum per household, [and] a funding strategy for the missing middle, which includes engaging with the financial sector to support by providing loans to students within that bracket,” he said, as per EWN.
Mashatile added that an investigation, one of many already launched into what exactly is happening at NSFAS, is currently underway to reveal the problems experienced with the controversial direct payment system and the four contracted fintechs, two of which are alleged to have business ties with former CEO Andile Nongogo, which influenced their appointment.
“The minister of higher education did present that model to Cabinet. He has been working hard with his team to ensure that we do meet the demand of our students,” added Mashatile about Minister Blade Nzimande, which has recently weathered calls for his resignation amid revelations around the disastrous implementation of the system from the likes of political parties and student organisations.
No word yet on what this new model would look like, but as far as the current direct payment system is concerned, fintech eZaga has said that it is still managing payments to students even though the NSFAS board declared that it would cancel the contracts of the payment partners. Itself and Tenet Technologies are actively seeking legal assistance to maintain their contracts and receive damages from NSFAS for allegedly besmirching their public images.
With NSFAS managing a budget of R50 million to assist underprivileged students to study, here’s hoping that next year will be better for those going to classes and for the taxpayers that help put them there.