The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has thrown the book at a final-year university student and cut her funding just four months before she completes her honours degree.
Earlier this month, University of Johannesburg (UJ) final-year student, Thembelihle Qwabe, got a rude awakening when NSFAS informed her that it would no longer fund her studies.
Although no reasons were given for the withdrawal, the 30-year-old student suspects it may have something to do with the fact that she has previously been funded for a diploma.
Qwabe readily admits that she has indeed completed her first NSFAS-funded qualification, a three-year diploma in dramatic arts, obtained from the Durban University of Technology. She graduated in 2012.
For some reason, the NSFAS funding of the diploma never came up when Qwabe applied for funds to study an honours degree (majoring in communications).
In 2017, Qwabe was accepted to study towards a BA journalism and communications major degree at UJ and NSFAS agreed to fund her studies.
“They didn’t tell me that I didn’t qualify to be financed for the second time … it’s something one can’t hide even … I mean that was my highest qualification on the system at the time,” Qwabe said.
After three years – four months before completion of her degree – the fund has pulled the rug from under her. Qwabe said she was informed only two weeks ago that she was no longer a beneficiary.
“After so much time and effort in studying towards this degree, it’s not fair. They should have said that they can’t finance me from the beginning. Even worse, they can’t give me [such] answers and blame it on the system,” said a despondent Qwabe.
Qwabe said she was informed by NSFAS that her matter couldn’t be reviewed and nothing could be done to assist her.
“I need to finish my studies and graduate. Jobs are getting harder to find in South Africa. I do not wish to be a part of that jobless statistic. I’ve worked really hard for this degree,” lamented Qwabe.
“I can’t just be dropped like that just because NSFAS says that they can no longer fund me because the government changed the system and changed the loan into a bursary.
“Why was I not informed from the very beginning? Now I am just left with four months to complete my degree and graduate. What will I do with an incomplete degree?”
NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo would not be drawn into revealing why Qwabe was awarded funding for a second qualification – only to be withdrawn in the last year of study a few months before her final exams.
“We have an obligation not to give financial particulars of beneficiaries or prospective beneficiaries to third parties. We cannot even comment if the student in question is a recipient or not of our funding,” Mamabolo said.
However, Mamabolo said NSFAS rules stated that once a student had completed a qualification and graduated, they did not qualify for funding for a second or third qualification.
There were several other students whose funding has been withdrawn by NSFAS, but it appeared “poor performance” was the reason advanced. Mamabolo would neither deny nor confirm the development, but fund rules do stipulate that poor results can lead to the withdrawal of funding.
Qwabe, who is from Durban, said she was now in a quandary and needed to find a way to finance herself so that she could finish her degree.
“The NSFAS funding was actually not enough, I had to supplement by taking on a waitress job. But now I am in even more dire straits.”
– African News Agency