The National Students Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) says it has paid what it owes the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), which is why it is meeting student leaders and university administrators on Thursday to investigate claims that the money did not get to all students.
“We have asked CPUT why that money has not gone to the students. They have indicated it is internal challenges that they have, the arrangements they have with the banks and all of that, and that’s why they can’t disburse the allowances on time to students,” said Deputy Education Minister Buti Manamela after a meeting with Nsfas officials in Cape Town on Thursday.
“I want to emphasise that, with the administrator here, with everybody here, we are doing everything in our power to help CPUT to be able to pay those allowances on time.”
Administrator Dr Randall Carolissen said Nsfas was concerned when it was approached by students to clarify why money was not paid. Payment is directly linked to being approved for funding.
Although the Nsfas payments are book-ended by other demands by protest-hit CPUT, their concern was being taken seriously, hence Thursday’s meetings.
The CPUT campuses have been closed since last Friday.
Carolissen said CPUT received R129,811,000 on 31 January, and a further R29 million at the end of February, so students’ claims that not everybody has been paid are worrying.
One explanation he has received is that the bank can only process 500 people at a time.
However, CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley told News24 that CPUT has paid in the region of just over R80m in Nsfas funding to students during the February-March period.
“A further R32 million has not been disbursed since students have not heeded numerous calls to update their bank details.
“It is impossible to pay them if this crucial step has not been completed. Transport allowances are only payable once we establish which students have been placed in residence and that process has not been concluded yet.”
Since last week, at least 17 vehicles were damaged during protests, food trucks were torched and lessons stopped, as numerous grievances were raised.
These included the money some students were still owed for food, the quality of food, and complaints about some managers and senior staff.
Also on Thursday, students gathered and made their way to CPUT’s campus in District 6 in Cape Town for a mass meeting.
Last week, some students were afraid when student leaders demanded they join a march. Later, foam was sprayed from fire extinguishers into a residence room.
Kansley said on Thursday morning: “Campus has effectively become a no-go zone for staff and students as a result of the level of violence displayed by the protesters.
“Security has a mandate to bring order to a volatile situation,” she said.
On Wednesday, an EFF Student Command media liaison official, Chulumanco Mihlali Nkasela, told News24 the private security company was heavy-handed as it swept through the Bellville campus on Tuesday night when students were walking to a meeting to discuss their grievances.
The police said their public order police unit was also called in, but there were no arrests.
Kansley said any allegations of heavy-handedness can be reported and investigated.
Manamela said CPUT was supposed to have been present at his briefing at Nsfas’s offices in Wynberg on Thursday morning, but had asked that the meeting be postponed to the afternoon.
However, he said that, although Nsfas was the source of many protests in the past, its systems had improved, to the point that the institution is relatively low on the list of demands presented by protesters during campus unrest around the country.
There is also stability at most institutions now.
“We are happy with the progress that has made over the last few years,” he said.
He said that Nsfas had also extended its date for appeals over funding decisions to 15 March, and asked students to comply with document requirements so that these can be finalised.