NSFAS is the acronym for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, which is a government administered low interest loan and bursary fund for tertiary study. In theory, NSFAS should bring relief to thousands of needy applicants and the deal can be a good one if it works.   It is supposed to work like this…. If your total annual household income is less than R160 000, you are eligible to apply and application is done via the financial aid services of the educational institution of your choice. The applicant undergoes a means test which requires full financial disclosure. If NSFAS agrees that you meet the required criteria, they will hopefully lend you the money for your degree / diploma / FET training, on an annually renewable basis.  Tuition fees and books should be covered in full by low interest loans that are payable only once the graduate is earning an income of more than R30 000 per year, and depending on the quality of your marks, NSFAS may convert up to 40 % of that loan to a bursary, which is a really sweet deal!

However, NSFAS is not for sissies, because there are tens of thousands of needy young people competing for the funds every year, and there is nowhere near enough money in the pot to help everyone who qualifies. And then, there are countless instances where funding is approved, but people receive funds late, or not at all, due to maladministration, and this can mean lots of stress, tears, hard work, and queues to try to have the issues resolved. The biggest tragedy of all, is that whilst the NSFAS Act of 1999 allows the Fund to request employers to deduct loan repayments from the monthly salaries of those who’ve been assisted by the scheme, billions of Rand of loan debt remains unrecovered. MOST of the unrecovered funds are owed by civil servants, whose employer is the State.  A quick Google search will deliver the latest facts and figures on that score. It is up to us, the tax payer / voter, to hold the government accountable for this travesty. Furthermore, this is understandably, one of the grievances of the protesters in the #feesmustfall movement.

The fund is in trouble, but that shouldn’t stop those who fit the criteria from applying anyway, and hoping like crazy that they may be one of the fortunate few who do not slip through the cracks for the next academic year. And, most importantly, fortunate beneficiaries of student loans, or those whose families are better off and able to pay fees, should still find a way to stand in solidarity with their peers whose battles are far greater. We may not want to protest, but we can find other ways to stand in solidarity. Please don’t close your minds, to finding common ground and fighting the good fight.

Throwing rocks, vandalizing and burning buildings and other property, threats and intimidation are all horrific behaviours, but please try to see that the protests are happening for a reason. We need to enter into that dialogue with one another if we are to make progress in healing the wounds created by the injustices of poverty and corruption. #feesmustfall #parentsinsolidarity

(For further information on NSFAS, follow this link: http://www.nsfas.org.za/content/studentsupport.html)


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