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NSFAS Meal Allowance Conundrum: Rhodes University Students Demand Relief

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NSFAS Meal Allowance Conundrum: Rhodes University Students Demand Relief

NSFAS Meal Allowance Conundrum: Rhodes University Students Demand Relief.Rhodes University students who rely on financial assistance from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) are facing the hardship of attending classes on empty stomachs.

NSFAS Meal Allowance Conundrum: Rhodes University Students Demand Relief

This dire situation has arisen as one of the service providers appointed by NSFAS to distribute monthly meal allowances to students allegedly fails to fulfill its duty.

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Fintech Company Accused of Funding Crisis

Coinvest Africa, one of four fintech companies chosen by NSFAS to allocate a monthly sum of R1 650 to students across South Africa’s 26 public universities and 50 TVET colleges, has been implicated in the funding crisis experienced at the Makhanda university. This crisis has led to students struggling with inadequate access to food.

Change in Service Provider Responsibility

NSFAS made the decision to shift the responsibility of distributing student meal allowances away from universities, leading to the appointment of external service providers. However, this change has led to significant challenges for students at Rhodes University.

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Meal Allowance Delays

Rhodes University students have reported that they did not receive their food allowances on 1 July and 1 August from Coinvest. The company took over the distribution from the university at the end of June.

Controversial Contracts and CEO Investigation

The contracts awarded to these service providers have been a subject of controversy, prompting the NSFAS board to place its CEO, Andile Nongogo, on leave while an investigation into the appointment of these service providers takes place.

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Online Petition and Concerns

An online petition with over 8,000 signatures has surfaced, calling for the abandonment of the “direct payment” approach. Concerns have been raised about unauthorized debits from student accounts.

Calls for Minister’s Resignation

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has demanded the resignation of Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande in the wake of the funding chaos.

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Financial Strain Affecting Students’ Well-being and Academic Performance

A group of Rhodes University students, who spoke anonymously to News24, disclosed their struggles in covering essential expenses due to the financial uncertainty caused by the delayed allowances. This strain has taken a toll on their mental well-being, affecting their ability to concentrate on their studies.

Students’ Perspectives on the Impact

A second-year Psychology student at Rhodes University stated that financial strain had led to a decline in academic performance and attendance due to difficulty in covering expenses. The absence of a student allowance disrupted their academic journey, hindering participation in various aspects of university life.

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Petition and Demands

William Sezoe, the deputy SRC chairperson at Stellenbosch University and organizer of the petition, highlighted suspicious withdrawals resulting from the direct payment system. The petition and a memorandum of demands, including a request for an inquiry into NSFAS, were set to be presented to Parliament.

Direct Payment System’s Goals and Concerns

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) advocated for the direct payment method as a necessary intervention to address discrepancies. It emerged in 2018 as a solution to rectify issues present in the previous system. The union emphasized the importance of collaboration between students, universities, and NSFAS for the success of this system.

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Pending Responses

Queries were directed to Coinvest Africa and NSFAS regarding the situation, but responses were awaited at the time of publication. Their input will be included once received.

Conclusion

The distressing situation of Rhodes University students facing empty stomachs due to NSFAS allowance delays calls for immediate attention. Amidst controversy and investigations, the plea for transparent, efficient solutions resonates. Collaboration between students, universities, and authorities is vital to ensure timely resolutions, safeguarding academic pursuits from financial hardships.

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