In the past NSFAS paid funds into student’s accounts. With the new system, students will now receive these allowances in the form of sBux vouchers on their cell phones that they can only spend at registered sBux merchants.
NSFAS has introduced the sBux system to 12 universities and FET colleges in 2014 and plans to have it running in all universities and FET colleges by 2016.
The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) SRC, one of the 12 pilot universities, has said that it completely opposes this new sBux system. The UCT SRC hosted a benchmarking conference on 22 February where the sBux system was one of the issues that was discussed. Attendees of the conference were SRC representatives from UP and the University of the Western Cape.
One of the reasons why UCT SRC is rejecting the sBux system is that the new system will create a “student experience” and a “NSFAS student experience”. Students on the financial aid plan will be limited in the places that they can purchase food and this will cause unnecessary differences between them and other students.
Fikile Mabena, a second-year BA student at UP and NSFAS recipient, agrees with this point. She says that although she sees why NSFAS is doing this “it is not something that is constructive in its totality because now we are limited to specific places and you’ll find that we are going to be stigmatised on campus as ‘those’ NSFAS students.” Mabena added that students come to university to get higher education and fit in with their peers irrespective of financial backgrounds. She said that with the new system, this socialisation will be difficult considering that most NSFAS students hide the fact that they are funded by NSFAS
A main point that was raised by the UCT SRC was that NSFAS is a loan scheme and not a bursary scheme. Students will have to repay the loan once they begin working so they deserve the responsibility to make decisions with regard to how and where they spend this money.
First-year BSc Biological Sciences student, Charmaine Khumalo said, “I think it’s not a good idea … I would have preferred the old system because that way I can budget it to my own needs. It’s like I don’t have any freedom, like I am a slave.”
Thandoluhle Dladla, a third-year BA Law student, also mentioned how students will find difficulty in attaining safe private accommodation close to campus that is registered with sBux.
UP is not using the sBux system yet. Perdeby asked George Chauke, the manager of Study Finances, when sBux will be implemented at UP. He said that he could not confirm this as it is not clear which universities will be included in the sBux system.