THOUSANDS of student registrations have ground to a halt over a dispute about financial aid.
Affected Walter Sisulu University (WSU) campuses include all Buffalo City Metro campuses and both in Mthatha – Zamukulungisa and Nelson Mandela Drive.
According to WSU spokeswoman Angela Church registration was halted because of protest action which began when talks between WSU management, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) deadlocked on matters involving National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding.
Church said three issues raised by the SRCs in a meeting on Monday still needed resolution. They are:
Not all students who applied for NSFAS funding last year, or who qualified, would receive financial aid this year as NSFAS resources were depleted. About 1 700 students have been listed as “pending”.
The SRCs demand the students be allowed to register without paying the minimum initial payment. The university agreed the minimum initial payment applicable in January 2012 would apply this year as well, but the SRCs now want the special dispensation minimum initial payment amounts conceded last February to be implemented, which contradicts the initial agreement; and
BTech students who applied for NSFAS funding this year will have to pay the minimum initial payment. Only those students who applied for financial aid last year may register without paying the minimum initial payment, but the SRCs want the students to be allowed to register without paying the minimum initial payment.
“This will have serious financial implications for WSU.
“The university has argued these students who have not been officially allocated should attempt to fund their own registration while WSU attempts to seek funding from other sources.
“The university cannot register students unless the minimum initial payments are made,” Church said. “Funding for needy, deserving students is a national issue that affects all universities.
“Every effort will be made to resolve this impasse as soon as possible. We regret the inconvenience,” Church added.
Chairman of the NSFAS board Zamayedwa Sogayise said the financial aid institution had provided R287-million for WSU in 2013 and could give no further funding to any higher learning institution.
“Our funding is allocated equitably which means it varies from year to year,” he said. “We have no additional funds.” ISRC secretary-general Yanga Zicina said students who deserved financial assistance were being denied it.
“Even students who continue their studies at the university are not getting funding as they did in previous years. This is creating problems.”
He said other issues included accommodation, the phasing-out of part-time programmes and lack of funding for BTech studies.
For now registration has been suspended only at the Buffalo City and Mthatha campuses.
“Students have closed off access points to these campuses and if these issues are not addressed by the management then other campuses are likely to join in.
“These are serious problems demanding the attention of [administrator Professor Lourens van Staden], who continues to implement decisions without consulting students. But this is not a strike yet. This is more of a protest or a declaration of dissatisfaction. There is no crisis and there is no chaos,” Zicina said.
The news has angered many students, who turned to Facebook as a platform to vent their rage.
Bongiwe Siya wrote: “Every strike that happens there affects me because of my brother and sister. I think the financial aid management at WSU should have informed all the affected candidates last year, so they may try to get own funding.”
Charity Jojo commented: “What about the people who applied and qualified but you keep rejecting them? I am one of them. You should do something about us; this is another issue.”
Athi Mmg suggested: “All those students who don’t pass or all those who rely on NSFAS should have their own special campus.”
Church said a meeting between university management and all campus SRCs was scheduled for today.