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Pressure is mounting for Minister of Higher Education Naledi Pandor to fire the chief executive of NSFAS and disband its board following the ongoing challenges in disbursing money for students who were promised free education.

The call comes amid threats by private student accommodation in Belhar to evict more than 250 students who have not received payment more than halfway through the academic year.

To look at the state of affairs at the funding body amid protests in various universities Africa Melane speaks to Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela, South African Union of students representative Thabo Shinganye, SRC Secretary General at Universty of Venda Gilbert Nthsabeleng, Fort Hare SRC President Xolani Jaji and Education for Social Justice Foundation Deputy Chairperson Hendrick Makaneta.

Manamela says they have a situation wherein a significant number of applicants for funding at NSFAS have been resolved.

“And as things stand, the minister has requested that the balance of those cases which have not been resolved, should be resolved before we proceed with any of the new applications for the academic year 2018/2019.”

— Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training

“As things stand, we are obviously cognisant of the fact that this is the first year that we implemented fee-free higher education policy.”

— Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training

“Secondly, most of the senior executives at NSFAS have been there for less than a year and they also came in as appointed by former minister Nzimande to come in and rescue what was obviously a challenging situation at NSFAS.”

— Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training

He adds that the implementation of the fee-free higher education policy found NSFAS trying to come to terms with some of the challenges that it has faced before. And it had to readjust its system in order to ensure all were in place.

He says the adjustment meant that some students could not receive their allowances. Some believe that their allowances are insufficient.

“And those are some of the challenges that we have asked NSFAS to do. I personally have gone to some of the universities and TVET colleges together with the NSFAS team to get NSFAS to attend to individual problems that confront the students.”

— Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training

Shinganye says the department knew the challenges it faced.

“NSFAS has been experiencing challenges for quite some time and in fact, when they said that they are available for office they said that they would be able to turn the institution around.”

— Thabo Shinganye, South African Union of students

Nthsabeleng says the situation at the University of Venda is very devastating and the students have been protesting since Monday because of the delay of NSFAS allowances.