Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Nsfas cap on accommodation funding forces UP students to sleep on the streets

The University of Pretoria says it is financially strained, but is coming up with solutions to assist students.

A number of University of Pretoria (UP) students have been sleeping outside the tertiary institution’s residencies as a result of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (Nsfas) new policy.

Nsfas’ decision to limit the student’s accommodation allowance has found them struggling to find accommodation on and off campus.

‘Financially needy’

Speaking to The Citizen on Friday, UP student representative council (SRC) president Njabulo Sibeko said the students were engaging to prove that they were “homeless”.

“We cannot afford top-up that was imposed by the new Nsfas regulation. Right now, we are dealing with a situation where Nsfas used to give us R60 000 and the year before they gave us R58 000.

“So they have been increasing the accommodation allowance in the past few years, but this year all of a sudden from R60 000 to R45 000 because nationally that’s the average for what student accommodations charge,” he said.

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Sibeko said, however, living in Pretoria was “a totally difference story” in terms of pricing for accommodation.

“The average here is around R60 000 to R65 000 and already students will have to top-up the difference between R45 000 and R60 000. So what we are saying is that students can’t afford the top-up because they are already on Nsfas and they have proved that they are financially needy – and they are the most destitute in our society,” he continued.

“Students [can’t afford] the top-up will be forced to sleep either in the library, Shell garages, under the bridges – and bus terminals – and we are saying that cannot happened because it puts their safety and mental health at risk.”

Another student said the allowance restriction was negatively affecting students from different income and social backgrounds.

“We come from different background [and] some of us are [dependent] on social grants in which are parents are not working. So this thing is [affecting] us as we are sleeping on Duxbury Road [and] it is now raining. We don’t have a place to stay [and] on Monday classes are commencing. We don’t know where we are going to sleep,” UP third-year student Luanda Matau told The Citizen.

Negative consequences’

The UP, meanwhile, indicated that it was already experiencing financial strain due to inflation and load shedding, but was attempting to help some of the students.

“The University of Pretoria is not in a financial position to fund the difference between the actual and capped amounts. The extent of the funding required to fund the difference for the approximately 12 000 NSFAS students at UP will be approximately R240 million.

“This will have multiple negative consequences, including the strong possibility of making it unaffordable for students to continue with their studies,” UP spokesperson Rickus Delport said in a statement.

Delport said some accommodations were refusing to place the Nsfas students because the amount was below their rates.

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“We have made a list of accommodation providers available that falls within the Nsfas cap and have agreed to continue its engagements with the suppliers of private accommodation to negotiate more favourable rates for Nsfas students.

“The university will, as a matter of urgency, work with the SRC to find alternative accommodation and accredit more affordable accommodation. Where this accommodation is not located close to our campuses, we will be looking at possibly making safe transport available to support students.”

Delport added that Nsfas students who currently reside in UP residences will be allowed to continue their stay, while the university explores other solutions to address the shortfall between the cap allowance and cost of accommodation.

Last year, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) launched its own Nsfas investigation on alleged corruption, maladministration and the allocation of loans, bursaries and any other funding payable to students.

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