The South African Human Rights Commission recently announced that it was engaging the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the department of higher education following a barrage of complaints over the handling and rejection of financial aid applications.
In a statement, SAHRC commissioner, advocate André Gaum, said prospective students and those currently enrolled at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and universities were unhappy with how NSFAS processed applications for financial support.
“The commission is also concerned about media reports that paint a grim picture in how applications for aid are managed, given the impending deadline for registration at universities across the country,” Gaum said.
“The commission fears that as the deadline looms, a significant number of students will be without assistance, leading to the violation of their right to equality; human dignity and access to further education.”
Gaum said the complaints received by the SAHRC also related to poor accessibility and flaws in NSFAS’ appeal procedures for students whose applications had been rejected by the scheme.
“The commission is particularly concerned about the implications on inter alia the right to further education, in terms of (South Africa’s) Constitution,” he added.
In the discussions with NSFAS, the SAHRC said it sought to understand the problems bedeviling both the students and the government financial aid scheme.
“The aim of these engagements will be to inter alia prioritise current applicants and to understand the extent of the challenges confronting students and NSFAS. The commission will also engage in other initiatives to deal with these complaints, including partnering with other Chapter 9 institutions in investigating the challenges in the higher education sector,” said Gaum.
The SAHRC is one of South Africa’s so-called Chapter 9 institutions established in terms of chapter 9 of the Constitution to safeguard democratic principles.