The issue of student accommodation, and the quality thereof, has featured prominently among the demands of students. This is according to the Higher Education Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela.
He was speaking at the two-day National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) summit held at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein.
The deputy minister says the issue has constantly emerged during their engagements with the management of institutions of higher learning.
The summit aims to find a lasting solution to the accommodation challenges faced by students.
Each academic year, students stage protests over the lack of NSFAS funding while some allege funds arrive late.
Others say they are forced to take refuge in friends’ accommodation.
“NSFAS funding is affecting me in a negative way because I don’t have accommodation. It’s not going to be possible for me to come to school. I’m not from Bloemfontein myself. I’m from Wepener. So, in order for me to be here, I need to find a place to stay and that place is not going to be for free. I need to pay monthly rent, which we agreed with the landlord of the place,” a student said.
“We have identified some of the issues we are facing as students; the fact that NSFAS is not paying out our accommodation allowances. So, since the academic year has started, which is in February until now, some of the students have not received their allowances yet,” explains another student.
“My challenge is that I cannot pay the rent and the deposit that is needed for the rent and accommodation,” a student reiterates.
The government has acknowledged the challenges of student accommodation shortage and agreed there’s a need to create ways to make resources available to help students.
“We have made a dent in addressing the 100-000-shortfall in terms of beds to our university and TVET colleges. But we think that because the NSFAS is one of the major contributors in terms of student accommodation. They should also contribute to giving solutions on how we resolve student accommodation, but this cannot only be something that government alone can look at. That is why we have the participation of the private sector and students themselves. We want to see students staying in a safe environment in a clean environment and learning in a conducive environment as is the case everywhere else,” says Manamela.
The NSFAS says it wants to come up with a way to resolve the payment of student accommodation.
“Some of the funds that go to students go for reasons other than what they are not meant for. So, for that reason, we are developing a system where we will pay directly to accommodation providers so that they account for the funds that we are going to transfer,” says Ernest Khosa, NSFAS chairman.