News Column

sBux sucks, say needy students

January 27, 2014

Daneel Knoetze STAFF REPORTER Student leaders at UCT have slammed a cellphone payment scheme introduced by the distributor of |government bursaries. The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has pioneered a "mobile banking solution" under which student funds are distributed via a cellphone account. Called sBux, it enables students to pay for everything from food and accommodation to travel allowances and books. Students first have to log what they want to purchase, then an sBux voucher is sent to their cellphones. It can be used to pay for the item or service at a registered sBux merchant. But UCT Student Representative Council president Nommangaliso Gondwe said the SRC rejected sBux. "The implementation of sBux will be detrimental to financial aid students and it does not further the best interests of the student population," she said. Gondwe said a national campaign was under way with other SRCs to oppose the system. She was also trying to meet the NSFAS to discuss a number of specific grievances: l Students had to repay the NSFAS when they got a job. They therefore had the right to manage their funds as they deemed appropriate. The new system limited students' choices. l The NSFAS had not properly consulted students about sBux. l Students could face difficulties if the sBux system went down. l More evaluation of the effectiveness of sBux was needed before it was implemented, so that necessary improvements could be identified. l sBux supported big business and disadvantaged small businesses and entrepreneurs. NSFAS spokeswoman Lauren Vanacore said the scheme provided loans and bursaries to more than 430 000 students at 25 universities and 50 further education colleges. "The budget for this is over R9 billion of taxpayers' money. "This is quite different from a bank or other high interest commercial loans to students, usually with security from their parents, which they can spend as they wish." She said sBux had been introduced on a pilot basis to improve distribution of allowances to students. The scheme had spoken to UCT's SRC to try understand its concerns and come to a resolution. Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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