End to wait in sight for NSFAS applicants

Months of uncertainty and struggle will come to an end for nearly 2 000 NMMU students when they sign their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) loan agreements by May 31.

The 1 953 students had been waiting to learn the fate of their academic careers.

Some students were forced to go home as a result of either no response or rejection by the scheme and funding models in place at NMMU.

Others have spent months squatting with friends or family or living in temporary accommodation provided by the Student Representative Council.

Students found themselves homeless amid a housing crisis at the university.

Earlier this year, NMMU could not provide accommodation for first-year and returning students who had not registered, while providing accommodation for students who were writing their 2016 exams following the #FeesMustFall shutdown last year.

While there is some relief for NSFAS students, many say the strain of waiting to hear their fate has taken its toll.

First-year Bachelor of Arts student Lindokuhle Pini, 18, said he was certain he had failed some modules as a result of waiting for book and meal allowances.

“I initially applied in December and when I called to inquire about my application, I was told they could not locate it, which meant I had to start all over again,” Pini said.

“I finally registered when the varsity called all students who were from quintile one, two and three schools to register for free.”

Pini said the past five months had been especially difficult for his mother, who had sent him what little money she made from her job as a preschool teacher.

“I am worried I might be failing some of my modules because I have been stressed and unable to concentrate,” he said.

For third-year marketing student Xabiso Kroqwana, 27, receiving a message of approval was “unreal” as he had been rejected in previous years.

But the excitement and relief quickly faded as he has had to wait for his book and meal allowance.

“I don’t know how I would have survived without support from my domestic worker mom and the rest of my family,” he said.

“I have had to buy my textbooks cash, otherwise I would have failed.

“I had to watch a friend of mine pack his bags and go home because he was not approved by the NSFAS – for me, that just made the situation even more real.”

Last week, the NSFAS told the 63 558 university and TVET college students nationally to sign their loan agreement forms by the end of this month to avoid their funding approval being retracted.

NSFAS spokesman Kagisho Mamabolo said students could sign the forms online or by visiting the finance office at their campuses.

Asked why the process of allocating funds had taken so long, he said: “It is impossible to create a student account the year before, as we would not have accurate data on the number of modules or accommodation costs.

“Information needs to be submitted to the NSFAS after registration is completed.”

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