The High Court in Grahamstown today, 17 April 2018, ordered the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to, within one week, communicate a decision to a Rhodes University student on his application for financial aid. Njabulo Mavuso, who was represented by the Legal Resources Centre in Grahamstown, applied for NSFAS funding on 16 November 2017. He is a second year commerce student at Rhodes University.
In a statement issued today, the LRC said Mavuso had applied through NSFAS’s online application system and submitted all the required documents. However, the 2018 academic year commenced without NSFAS making a decision on his application.
Students who qualify for funding through NSFAS are exempt from paying registration fees at universities.
“Mavuso struggled to register at the beginning of the 2018 academic year as he was unable to pay the registration fee while awaiting a decision from NSFAS,” the LRC said. “He emailed NSFAS and phoned them on various occasions, but was informed that his application is still being processed. The failure to take a decision placed a substantial financial burden on him and his family, who cannot afford the high fees of the university.”
The LRC approached the court on an urgent basis for an order in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000, reviewing and setting aside the failure of NSFAS to take a decision in a timeous manner. The LRC also sought further structural relief directing NSFAS to inform all students applying for financial aid of a decision within 30 working days of the date of their application and within one month prior to the beginning of the academic year.
“While NSFAS was ordered to communicate a decision to Mr Mavuso within a week, the structural relief has been postponed to a later date to allow NSFAS to take instructions on this issue,” the LRC said.
NSFAS was also ordered to pay the cost of the postponement.
“There are many students who apply for financial aid through NSFAS and never receive any further communication on the outcome of their applications. This case shows that students do not have to wait indefinitely for NSFAS to take a decision on their applications, but may approach organisations like the LRC for legal assistance in order to force NSFAS to make a decision.”