EFF Student Command slams NSFAS’s ‘blatant attack on the poor’

A tender to supply NSFAS students with laptops was cancelled last month and a new one published after a slew of corruption allegations arose. Picture: iStock

Sasco says the determination of which students are to be funded should be done in a way that does not dehumanise them by them having to prove how poor they are.

The EFF Student Command (EFFSC) has said it views the decision by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to cut the funding of 5,000 students “as a blatant attack on the poor”.

NSFAS announced on Monday that the decision to withdraw the funding came after the South African Revenue Service (Sars) provided financial information which revealed that the students had declared their total household family income to be above the R350,000 threshold.

NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen confirmed that the students were funded for the 2020 academic year.

Noting Carolissen’s “sudden actions”, the EFFSC said: “We see this as a blatant attack on the poor and a failure of government to provide a system of checks and balances that does not subject the poor to parading their poverty in order to get the assistance they require from the state.”

The EFFSC said the withdrawal of the funding the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and “without a meaningful interrogation” of the students’ “individual circumstances both at home and personally” is “insensitive and abrupt”.

The red berets’ student movement called on the students affected by this “erroneous” and “callous” decision to contact it so it could provide a helping hand.

The South African Students Congress (Sasco) has rejected the decision to withdraw the funding and “is disappointed” by it.

“As an organisation, we view this move not only as an inhumane act but as an act that seeks to deepen student struggles in the post-schooling and training sector.

“Moreover, Sasco is angered by this decision that comes during the times of Covid-19 and a lockdown of economic activities where many small-medium enterprises are at the brink of collapse, where unemployment rates are on a continuous rise and inequalities continue to widen.

“Sasco interprets this move as but another exposition of control systems and incompetence of the financial scheme as headed by DR Randall [Carolissen],” the organisation said in a statement.

It further said the decision undermined the capacity of the state “in that they are displaying that our institutions together with their decisions are questionable and are taken without prior verification of information”.

“We call on the minister to speedily appoint the board to mitigate tormenting of poor and working-class students.”

The organisation called on the following measures to be considered:

  1. Use the system progressively to determine funding of students and avoid the dehumanising process of proving how poor you are for you to be funded by the government;
  2. Reversal of defunding 5,000 students by NSFAS;
  3. Funding of all students with the family income of up to R600,000.
  4. Speedily appoint the board of NSFAS that has a track record of activism and that is pro-poor and working class, so we can rate NSFAS based on its Annual Performance Plans.

“As an organisation, we firmly believe that government cannot be at the forefront of the persecution of working-class and poor masses of our people,” the organisation said, issuing a word of caution to Carolissen to “not test our strength”.

“Strengthening of NSFAS security measures must not be done to frustrate students and their already struggling families. If Randall had full confidence in this Sars matter then he wouldn’t be subjecting students to petition and such systems cannot be piloted in the midst of a pandemic and at a time of uncertainty, he must not dare campaign for office by electing to frustrate students.”

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