“NSFAS has become a crocodile with a large mouth syphoning money from the government,” says Sithenkosi Lungisa. He is an SRC member at Fort Hare University in the Eastern Cape. Sithenkosi was a panel member for our “VIP Debate Club: Has NSFAS Failed Us?” and “Policy Hack: Fixing NSFAS” debates. Here is more about him and his solutions for NSFAS’ problems.
What are you studying?
BA Honours in Public Administration.
Why Public Administration?
Public Administration is a field of study that is concerned with what the public sector practices in terms of providing service delivery to citizens. I’m politically active and concerned about what happens around me socially, politically and economically and this field of study matched these characteristics.
What are the job prospects of someone with your qualification?
You can be employed in the public sector in administration posts or become an academic with a focus on teaching and research.
Do you think you will be able to repay your NSFAS loan after graduating?
Yes, if I get a job. But, in the current situation, the South African market fails to attract and absorb graduates especially those who are not close to the political elite.
Do you think the NSFAS funding model is fair?
It is fair in a moral sense since it requires citizens to be directly involved in education. Although, I think we need to re-examine the current NSFAS model and tax the private sector more in order to fund our education. Look at France; they tax the private sector 75% to fund the public sector.
Do you think NSFAS is effective at creating equal access to education for all?
Not at the moment.
What do you think of the concept of free education?
There’s no such thing as free education. Let’s get that out of the way. The question is how do we finance education? The current NSFAS model is unsustainable.
It’s realistic if the government can introduce education tax on big commercial companies that continue to benefit from natural resources of this country.
What are some of the best and worst things about being a NSFAS student?
I have obtained my junior degree without paying a cent. I’m the first one in my family to obtain a degree and it’s all because of NSFAS. Worst thing about being a NSFAS student? Seeing others not receiving allowances due to a shortage in funding.
As a historically disadvantaged person studying at a historically black university, do you think the odds are particularly stacked against you?
I’d say, “yes” because the South African government has failed to speed up transformation to ensure that black universities meet the required standards. These universities fail to attract qualified staff members.
But I would also say “no” because we have come to define Fort Hare as the hub of the South African struggle. So in my own view, these universities remain a beacon of hope for transformation as they encourage our students to be aware that this country needs to get rid the apartheid patterns that hinder its success.
We’d love to hear what solutions you have for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Should the rich be taxed more? Should students in particular fields of study like engineering and medicine be catered first?