Public Protector South Africa intervenes in tertiary education challenges
Acting Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka will over the next five weeks visit up to six institutions of higher learning in as many provinces, where she will engage the management, Student Representative Councils (SRC) and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), among others interested parties, on issues relating to access to tertiary education.
In 2020, the office of the Public Protector received 08 complainants concerning the NSFAS. The complaints related to inadequate allowances for study material, non-payment of living allowances and failure to pay for tuition.
There is also an ongoing investigation stemming from allegations that the NSFAS incurred irregular expenditure amounting to R7billion; failed to assist students in that it lacked ability to raise and recover loans, lacked ability to disburse correct amounts of money, delayed disbursements to students; its senior managers lacked formal qualifications, engaged in unscrupulous procurement and lacked internal audit independence, among other things.
The office held several meetings with the NSFAS in 2020 to address challenges faced by students including failure or undue delay to settle outstanding fees; failure or undue delay to pay the monthly allowances, failure or undue delay to pay living allowances and failure or undue delay to pay study material allowances. It is apparent that these challenges remain.
This week, Adv. Gcaleka will engage Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic, Prof. Jan Ernst Crafford at the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, Limpopo. Also in the meeting will be the SRC, the SA Human Rights Commission and the NSFAS, who will make presentations.
In the next weeks, Adv. Gcaleka will visit the Tshwane University of Technology campus in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga; Orbit TVET College in Rustenburg, North West; University of the Free State in Mangaung; King Sabata Dalindyebo TVET College in Mthatha, Eastern Cape; and Unisa in Pretoria.
“The socio-economic background of many students in the country has a direct bearing on their ability to access tertiary education. Two of the challenges that face us as a country in this regard are the basic social justice issues of inequality and exclusion,” said Adv. Gcaleka.
“We are fully aware of the plight of poor students and the struggles they face at tertiary institutions across the country. In response, we intend to intervene to help alleviate the suffering of current and prospective students to have access to tertiary education.”
Adv. Gcaleka added that there was a need to engage meaningfully with key stakeholders with a view to collectively addressing student challenges and emerge with lasting solutions.
The meeting at the University of Venda will take place as follows:
Date : Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Time : 10:00
Venue : University Council Chamber, Thohoyandou, Limpopo