UNISA students wait for NSFAS funding

As exams approach, students are also anxiously waiting for textbook vouchers

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Photo of the UNISA building
The UNISA library in Pretoria. Photo: Michael Sean Gallagher on Flickr

Many UNISA students have not yet received their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds for the first semester of the 2018 academic year. They need the fees to be paid in order to receive their examination marks. They are also waiting for textbook vouchers.

UNISA has allowed students awaiting NSFAS funding to register and carry on with their studies. But if students do not have their fees paid, they won’t receive their examination marks, say students. Without their marks, they cannot register for further NSFAS funding.

Students have been calling NSFAS and UNISA to try to find out the status of their funding. Many have not got an answer. Sometimes the UNISA finance office will hang up when they hear a student is calling, says Zinhle Linnet, a first year student studying education.

Trevor Scharnick-Vlok, a fourth-year student studying ancient Eastern cultures, early Christian history, Egyptology, and archeology, said he had phoned NSFAS about five times a week since he failed to receive his funding in January.

“Between UNISA and NSFAS, no one takes responsibility for their actions,” Scharnick-Vlok said. “I don’t know who to phone anymore.”

On 17 April, Scharnick-Vlok received an email that said: “Please note we are still processing funding for all returning students that were funded by NSFAS in 2017.”

Without vouchers for textbooks, students have resorted to PDF versions in order to study. However, some textbooks are not offered as PDFs.

“It is quite difficult for us to study for exams,” says first-year management student Christian Jacobs.

“I’m scared,” says Linnet. “Exams start in two weeks time.”

Linnet is the first person in her family to attend university. She travels two to three hours to get to the Nelspruit campus by taxi from her home in Mpumalanga. She types her assignments on her phone.

Examinations were scheduled for 7 to 18 May. But on 23 April, UNISA Vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya, said students had the option to write their exams between 18 and 29 June.

GroundUp has phoned and emailed NSFAS and UNISA since mid-April. Emails were acknowledged but questions were not answered.

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TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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Dear Editor

I was approved by Nsfas but it has not yet paid my fees. I am confused because I thought it would pay. My mother doen't even have money to pay my fees. I want to know what really is happening.