UJ-Finance Calls NSFAS Students To Send Their Student Numbers To SRC For Urgent Assistance

By Magnificent Mndebele

The Director of Finance at the University of Johannesburg, Mzwakhe Matukane, promises to urgently aid NSFAS students after the APK-SRC members approached him to address concerns of students which some trepidations include possible evictions from residences.

“What we did during registration is that for the list of students that NSFAS confirmed that are funded we sent it to private accommodations to say these are the students that are funded by NSFAS, can you assist?”

“The very same students even though they did not sign contracts were given book allowances by UJ. And the arrangement was that as soon as the students sign contracts then we would be able to assist in terms of paying for accommodations allowance,” said Matukane.

The Student Representative Council at Auckland Park Kingsway Campus today in the morning, accompanied by a minority of students went to deliver ten concerns of the students.

IMG_2105The concerns that were delivered that are related to NSFAS include possible eviction of students from accommodations, signing of contracts, NSFAS-funded students’ final-year meal allowance, appeal results, some students that were funded last year by NSFAS this year have not yet been funded and Postgraduate students who applied for funding have not yet been replied.

“To resolve an issue in a more structured way… if we get the student numbers we would be able to…understand which students are at a higher risk at the moment,” said Matukane.

“Now the risk on UJ side is that if the students who have not signed the loan agreement forms are given the allowances it means that UJ must take the money and pay private accommodations when NSFAS have not confirmed,” he adds.

But the Postgraduate students cannot be assured of anything because NSFAS has not yet given anyone a feedback and therefore UJ cannot urge residences to keep Postgraduate students because if they stay longer, the more they will be liable to debts should they be not funded at all.

However, Matukane also raised some deceitful methods that students who have never applied at all for NSFAS use SMSs lying to private accommodations that they are funded by NSFAS, as a result this double their workload and leads to more derailment to finalise the finances of students.

“Another thing we have picked up is that NSFAS has sent SMSs to students saying you have been funded, for some reasons, that SMS has been replicated to other students who never applied for NSFAS and the same students have used the SMS to get a private accommodation.”

“And when [those accommodations] send us the list and [we discover that some students have not applied at all] it makes our job very difficult because now you are dealing with fraudulent cases, you are dealing with legitimate cases as well,” said Matukane.

Also, “the students who have applied for NSFAS and have not received the outcome from NSFAS to us it means they are not funded and the reason is that they are still evaluating your applications or there is a chance that you will not be funded in 2017,” Matukane added.

Students who are currently doing their final year of study Makutane reassured that most of the issues will be resolved by next week and they will get the meal allowance including the months that have passed.  But those who did their final year of study in 2016 and had to repeat certain modules this year won’t be given meal allowance.

There are about 240 students whose tuition fees have not been paid by NSFAS in 2016, and UJ is struggling with that now because NSFAS is unable to confirm that these students are funded in 2017.

“Remember NSFAS in 2016 funded students and they did not have to apply for 2017, so NSFAS said ‘we will transfer you into 2017 on condition that we have paid for you in 2016’ so if they have not paid, it means they cannot confirm 2017 funding, that is the case but hence I am saying these are internal issues that we are engaging with NSFAS that the students are affected,” articulated Matukane.

Since from the beginning of signing Loan Agreement Forms (LAFs) until to the 18th of May, there are 13 953 LAFs created by NSFAS and signed, 2 295 LAFs that were created but have not yet been signed, so in total there are 16 212 LAFs that have been created on NSFAS.

On Conduit funding – which includes DSD, Funza and Thuthuka bursaries – there are 182 LAFs created but have not yet been signed and 352 were created and signed.

Cases of registration data on students sent to NSFAS and no loan agreements created in total including NSFAS-funded and Conduit funding are 1 997.

The UJ-APK SRC and the Director of Student Finance concluded that the students should send their student numbers and their queries to the SRC, next week Monday the latest, SRC will send the student numbers to the Director and the Director is likely next week to go to Cape Town’s NSFAS offices for a meeting to discuss the issues.

IMG_2103When the SRC went to deliver the outcries, it is not only NSFAS students who are affected, but also students who are doing Social Work that are funded by the Department of Social Development (DSD). They complained that DSD decided to cut their stipends by 75% without providing a ground and solid explanation.

The Open Journal has obtained an email where the students addressed the issue to DSD but an individual named as Vuyelwa Mngadi who is said to be a Manager at DSD, replied to the email by saying “please inform all [your] fellow student[s] that with effect from 2017, the stipend was reduced, all the big monies you planned on getting will not be paid,” reads the email.

“I don’t owe students any explanation; if a decision is taken at the meeting with the committee, we send the message to universities and they implement. This is DSD’s decision for your record, so I have no explanation to do to anyone.”

“Refrain sending me mail because I have other things to do than explain myself to anyone,” further reads the email sent by Vuyelwa Mngadi to the students who needed to know why their allowance was cut from R 11 200 per annum to R2 800.

The Open Journal will investigate the concerns of DSD students in a more detailed manner to thoroughly understand what has caused such cut as some of the students funded by DSD strongly believe that malice and corruption are involved.

The Social Workers’ students say they are required to travel to far places and should use the very same stipend that has been reduced by 75% to buy formal attire because they are obligated to wear in a formal manner when going to the agencies.

They further uttered that “every month we have to complain to DSD to give us the money. Every month we should toitoi to get our money.”

Did You Know That NSFAS In 2017 Will…

By Magnificent Mndebele

After the information session that took place yesterday in all UJ campuses, NSFAS has shed a light on several things that may probably be very vital to know or to be aware of before making errors.

  • NSFAS will send either an email or SMS to those who have applied for the fee grant, but unfortunately, the date has not yet been set as NSFAS did not finish creating the LAFs of all students.
  • NSFAS will not allocate money to students who are currently staying at residences if there is no invoice or if the residence is not accredited.
  • Once done signing the contract, NSFAS will provide you with a new card called ‘Fundi’
  • NSFAS’ student portal wouldn’t enable anyone to add new numbers if the sim card that was registered got lost. Instead, the student should personally call NSFAS in Cape Town to update the number so that the student will get an OPT message.
  • If the student did not get a response at all, then that student should contact NSFAS in Cape Town to find out what went wrong. Inevitably, the electronic application partly causes inconveniences.

The NSFAS in Cape Town allocates money to different institutions, therefore the institutions independently decide on how to allocate the money to the students. The University of Johannesburg has chosen only to give final-year students the meal allowance to make sure that many as possible students get money for funding. Thus far, UJ’s NSFAS has funded close to 18 000 students.

Which Questions Should We Ask NSFAS On Your Behalf In NSFAS’ Session Today?

Today ( 14 March 2017) NSFAS is going head to head with the students in different campuses at UJ, and we can almost predict that it is likely to be dramatic. However, the information session with regards to the criteria for approval, next step after registration, challenges faced by students on private accommodations that are accredited by UJ and among others, the Fee Grant Subsidy, is very vital for all students.

For in case you wouldn’t be available to the session, but you are encouraged to participate in it. Should you fail to avail yourself, then why not use us?

Give us questions that you would like to be answered based on the key points highlighted.

The Open Journal is a caring news blog for the students and run by the students through the voice of the students, therefore today we will be bringing what will be unfolding at various campuses.

#NSFASIsFailingUS petition on the move after others wanted to commit suicide…

By Onthatile Kgoadigoadi

‘I want to talk to you because I want to commit suicide’. “Probably it was a joke at first but I took it seriously when I sent him multiple texts asking him why and I actually cried because it broke my heart thinking that he was going to be the first lawyer in the family.”

“So, I asked him what are we going to do” and he said ‘there is nothing that we can do because I am depending on SASSA and I have siblings. So, who is going to take me to school, rather I commit a suicide…’ these words spoken by Kamogelo Maja’s cousin prompted her to join the #NSFASIsFailingUs Campaign.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) had improved its application system by enabling students to apply online for the year 2017. However, it has appeared to the public that its communication has not been efficient.

The #NSFASIsFailingUs Campaign was created by Sandisiwe Maseti, a student at the University of Pretoria who majors in political science, on Monday the 6th of February.

Maseti is one of the students who have been failed by NSFAS due to its inefficiency in communication. She was denied access to register by the university before she had even received an SMS from NSFAS few days before the university’s registration closing.

“I haven’t registered yet and registrations are closing next week. How am I supposed to get funding in such a short period,” Maseti rhetorically asked in a tone that accentuates distress.

The Open Journal was given an exclusive access to review the page of #NSFASIsFailingUs on Facebook and Twitter, and there were a lot of people that had posted comments showing a similar sequence of being disappointed and stranded.

The #NSFASIsFailingUs petition has been signed by more than 2 800 students of various institutions since it was created last Monday.

President Jacob Zuma on the 2017 State Of the Nation address speech said: “All students who qualify for NSFAS and who have been accepted by universities and TVET colleges will be funded…It is for this reason that when university students expressed genuine concerns…our caring government responded appropriately… [therefore] we are ensuring that our deserving students can study without fearing that past debts will prevent them from finishing their studies.”

Despite such affirmative and wisely spoken words by President Jacob Zuma, the number of discontent students seem to mount in frustration as their envisioned bright future seem to be shattered.

“I applied for NSFAS since last year so, recently when I checked they(NSFAS) said my application has not yet been evaluated, said Maja’s cousin, Simon.

“A few days later, when I checked they said they are waiting for the availability of funds [ yet I applied last year] and they only told me now that they don’t have money. Now I am being denied education for reasons that I do not know of,” he added.

Maseti said the #NSFASIsFailingUs campaign was created with the objectives to expose the inefficiency in communication between NSFAS and students.

She added that “the government needs to speed up the communication and further consider the middle-class issue taking the historical context of South Africa into consideration.”

A Magnificent Journey: From Destitute to Greatness

By Masindi Mamphiswana

Somewhere out of the shanty, dusty small village of Thokozani in Mpumalanga – the place of the rising sun – comes a young man of determined character who is undeterred by the abjection surrounding him. His name is Magnificent but there’s nothing quite beautiful and impressive about his humble beginnings yet he is going to change that now that he’ll be the first in his family to get a degree.

Magnificent’s life during the times of hardship and misery.

Life was hard for Magnificent growing up without his parents there. He depended on his grandmother’s laborious efforts to survive. She was his support structure both socially and economically. When he was younger, she would carry the little boy on her back at the break of dawn to go to work in the expanse of the evergreen forests and toil in the deforestation industry for a decent income in order to put food on the table.

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Magnificent with his son Baby Nathan and his dearest grandmother Sbongile Julia Gwebu. Image by Magnificent Mndebele

It was hard to get by as his family was poor and the community destitute. Back then, sometimes Magnificent had to go to sleep only having eaten a meal of pap served with sugared or salted water. Just to have potatoes as a substitute for meat was pleasing enough. Life was not good. His loving grandmother is his superwoman, his sole provider and he has always valued her efforts to make his life bearable.

He lacked the comfort of his parents through difficult times. A car crash claimed the life of his father, robbing Magnificent of a father at such a tender age of three before he could even form strong memories of him. His mother left the village for Johannesburg in pursuit of a better life for herself.

How Magnificent’s Belief Birthed Endurance To Conquer All Odds

Seeing the unprosperous circumstances which surrounded him, Magnificent always dreamed of breaking out of that reality.  He realized that education was the only escape. As he is a politically conscious fellow, he believes in Mandela’s saying that education is the key to success. Magnificent knew he had to do something to escape the prison of poverty surrounding him. There was not much surrounding him; people survived by farming and forestry and there were barely any resources in Thokozane – no water, no electricity, no library, even shops were very far from the village.

But, believing in the ultimate power of education, even though he wasn’t the best academically, he wanted to pursue his dream of acquiring knowledge and making something of himself and to be the difference in a place where achievements were uncommon. But how was he to do that? No one in his community had ever gotten a degree before. But Magnificent wasn’t going to allow himself to be stuck without making attempts to breakout.

One afternoon, after hearing that the University of Johannesburg is issuing free online applications to enroll for the university, he decided to give it a shot. But he had no access to a computer as there was no library in his village but a small one in his town of Amsterdam which only had one computer for the population of a couple thousand people.

He used his smartphone to apply and to his luck soon after that, UJ accepted him. Having also applied for financial aid, NSFAS also accepted his request to be funded since he was financially disadvantaged. Just like that, things were starting to look up for the small-town boy. He really was relying on his faith, knowing God had his back.

The Rural Life vs. Life in the City Of Gold.

Now that doors started to open, Magnificent had to make that transition from rural, village boy to urban city boy. He travelled to Johannesburg ahead of commencing his studies.

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Having arrived in the bustling city of gold, the place of dreams and settling in Johannesburg Central, Magnificent was daunted not having been used to the city environment. But he quickly learned that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, glitter and gold or glitz and glam in Johannesburg as he had always envisaged.

In some aspects, it was a hard knock life too over here. Hobos lining the streets, begging for money, crime and violence… Johannesburg, he told himself, is also a horrible and cruel place.

In spite of the ugly side of it, he enjoys Joburg as it allows him to flourish. It’s quite a nice life here, he reckons. Much better than the struggle life back home. He gets to eat nice food and this is one of the things he likes about being here – which also relieves him of chores he has to do back home fetching and chopping firewood.

Welcome to UJ…

One day he walked into the student center at UJ, marvelling at and nerve-wrecked by all the restaurants and shops and multitudes of students socializing in the vicinity. He thought it was something like a mall and was afraid to go in and explore.

Magnificent had to find a way of adapting to this new, exciting place. He literally googled the challenges youth face when they gain independence in the city. Realizing how Johannesburg is like a big ocean where people drown, he told himself that he would use his freedom and independence wisely. No boozing, smoking or partying.

The most exciting part about arriving at UJ was the day he walked into the library, confronted with a plethora of books in an array of giant shelves – not quite like he had encountered before. Now he had access to all this knowledge, it was truly gratifying for him. And just like that, he had the key, was education and knowledge, in his hands.

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Now success awaits him if he uses the key correctly to unlock the door to success. Almost a year and counting…His journalism degree is waiting on the other side of the finish line and his graduation gown and cap await him faithfully and hopefully.

 

masindijpgMasindi Mamphiswana is a 24-year-old Jo’burg-based aspiring writer and journalist. She did her undergrad studies at Monash South Africa and subsequently pursued a postgraduate honours degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2016. She has an interest in areas such as economics, sociology and literature.