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Academic group: Students using NSFAS funds to support families, not buy books

The Alliance for Academic Success' Mohamed Kharwa said since the introduction of the policy at some universities where the majority of students depend on NSFAS, book sales have dropped by as high 91%.

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: CapeTalk.

JOHANNESBURG - Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has been asked to urgently conduct a study to determine whether the decline in students using textbooks has affected academic performance.

The call has come from a non-profit organisation calling itself the Alliance for Academic Success on Wednesday.

It suspects that money disbursed through the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is being used to support social causes, rather than the academic needs of students.

At the beginning of this year, NSFAS changed its policy of a ring-fenced system, which only allowed students to spend money on learning materials, including textbooks, to a direct cash transfer.

The alliance's Mohamed Kharwa said since the introduction of the policy at some universities where the majority of students depend on NSFAS, book sales have dropped by at least 91%.

Kharwa said their research found that many students were under pressure to send their NSFAS stipends home instead of using them on their academic needs.

He said this could negatively affect the academic performance of students and government needed to act.

Kharwa said a government study assessing the impact of the NSFAS's decision may assist policy-making in deciding whether it should continue in 2020.