Parliament’s select committee on education, technology, sports, arts and culture said it was satisfied with the efficiency with which National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) administrator Randall Carolissen had run the entity, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The committee also welcomed the task team announced by Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande at the weekend. It said the task team would investigate challenges associated with the move to the student-centred model at NSFAS in 2017.
Committee chairperson Elleck Nchabeleng said the intervention would enhance the work of the administrator and improve the service to poor students.
“Commendable work to stabilise the student financial aid scheme is being realised and that has been demonstrated by how allowances are being distributed to students,” Nchabeleng said.
He said the work NSFAS was doing in support of the departmental objectives to increase the number of poor students in higher education at no cost was noted.
“More work needs to be done around a policy that will ensure access to the category of students who belong to the ‘missing middle’,” he said.
“Many students who still have not bought laptops must do so, especially those who have been paid the annual teaching assistance allowance of R5 200 to buy gadgets that will facilitate their learning during this challenging time.”
Nchabeleng said NSFAS was now an entity which prioritised consequence management. Certain criminal syndicates operating within NSFAS had been reported to law enforcement agencies.
He said the committee would support NSFAS so that the entity did not lose the progress that was realised during the administration period. “NSFAS is a changed and a well-functioning student financial aid scheme.”
DA spokesperson on higher education, science, and technology Baxolile Nodada said: “There has been progress made, yet very slow in many aspects.”
Nodada said there were “massive gaps” that could have been avoided at NSFAS. He said the gaps included irregular expenditure which jumped from R285 million to over R7.6 billion.