UCT Students' Representative Council S.
started this petition to
Implementation of sBux by NSFAS.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has announced the introduction of a new ‘mobile banking solution’ to distribute funds to students. sBux, as it is named, will be used to pay students’ food, accommodation, books and travel allowances in the form of electronic vouchers through all cellphone types. The student will then be able to redeem the sBux voucher at any registered sBux merchant. For example, should a student need to buy books they need to give the merchant, who needs to be a registered SBux merchant, a voucher number which will allow them to buy books with the voucher that has been allocated for this purpose only.
The UCT SRC acknowledges the strides that the Department of Higher Education and Training has taken to ensure that the mismanagement and misuse of NSFAS student loan funds by institutions and students is eradicated. However, the implementation of sBux will be detrimental to financial aid students and it does not further the best interests of the student population. The UCT SRC in its meeting held on the 16 January 2014 took a decision to reject the sBux system in its entirety. We have identified a number of issues with this system which we would like to bring to your attention:
(1) The pursuit of transformation is a major issue for this SRC. This new system will further perpetuate feelings of disadvantage as it will create a Student Experience and a NSFAS Student Experience. Students who receive NSFAS allowances will be limited in the choices they have in buying specific products. This further entrenches distinctions between students that need not exist. These distinctions are being made in a very tangible and real way.
(2) The agreement signed between NSFAS and the student is a student loan which students have to pay back when they obtain employment. Students have the responsibility and right to manage their own funds as they deem appropriate for use to aid their academic career while studying. This new system gives merchants a list of products they must sell to students which compromises the choices that students have in using their funds appropriately. As a SRC we do not encourage students to spend their money carelessly but we will protect their choices when it comes to purchasing what is most appropriate to them.
(3) In developing the new system, NSFAS failed to seek the views of the student population and student leaders. The UCT SRC was only informed on the 04th of December 2013 even though implementation was due to take place at the start of the 2014 academic year. The UCT SRC is aggrieved by this. Consulting student leaders would have been of great value to NSFAS as evidenced by the amount of suggestions and new concerns that arose in the meeting the SRC had with the NSFAS team. Students have the right to be consulted about all issues which concern them.
(4) sBux doesn’t allow students to cross-subsidise their allowances, to purchase items from pharmacies and since merchants have to pay a commission to Celbux (the Company that created sBux) merchants might be hesitant to register, this will cause difficulties in cases such as when a NSFAS student needs to get off-campus accommodation. Furthermore, students might be faced with transaction difficulties when the system is down.
(5) The University of the Western Cape(UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) were used as pilots for this new system in 2013. When the system was presented to the SRC on the 4th of December 2013, NSFAS confirmed that it was still in the process of evaluating the students’ experiences of sBux at UWC and CPUT nonetheless we were alarmed at the fact that implementation continues at UCT and six other universities across the country. We believe that it would have been to the benefit of students had adequate evaluation been done before further implementation in order for any necessary improvements to be made where necessary.
(6) At the moment, it is impossible for NSFAS students to buy second hand textbooks from fellow students as the students selling textbooks will need to first register as a merchant in order to continue this kind of transaction. To register as a merchant one needs a company registration number, VAT registration number, a device to be used for sBux and software, this makes it difficult for student entrepreneurs to register as merchants.
(7) It is of concern to the SRC that NSFAS funds are being used to supporting big businesses. The SRC believes that the system further spreads anti-competitiveness between big businesses and small businesses.
The UCT SRC has been in communication, planning a way forward, with other SRCs around the country who are affected by this new NSFAS system. We will further set up a meeting with NSFAS to highlight our grievances.