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Change the world

15/08/2023

Two key decisions taken by NSFAS this semester have impacted beneficiaries at universities, including Nelson Mandela University. These are:

  • The implementation of direct payments of allowances to NSFAS beneficiaries and
  • The defunding of some students.  

Other student service issues have been raised by the student leadership and ordinary students too.

This statement seeks to provide an update on all these matters.

1. NSFAS Matters

The University continues to work with the NSFAS service provider, NORACCO, towards ensuring that all NSFAS beneficiaries are on-boarded and receive their allowances. To date, 94% of our students who are NSFAS beneficiaries have on-boarded. Of the 842 students who were defunded, 381 have since been re-enrolled in the NSFAS list of beneficiaries.

The University will continue to work with NSFAS and NORACCO towards improving the service experience and in dealing with any outstanding issues in the migration towards direct payment.

2. Restoration of Connectivity – Wi-Fi

The University noted that connectivity has been unstable off-campus as a result of vandalism that has been recurring from the side of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Connectivity will be restored to these sites by tomorrow morning (16 August).

3. Shuttle Operations

At the beginning of the 2023 academic year, we encountered a tremendous increase in student transport users. The Support Services division approached the Management Committee of the University (MANCO) to approve additional vehicles.

Following MANCO approval, there are now 154 vehicles in operation. A breakdown of these vehicles is as follows:

  • 31 x 22-seater busses
  • 123 x 15-seater busses
  • The total carrying capacity is 2527 student per trip
  • The day shift operates with 124 vehicles (morning and afternoon with a carrying capacity of 2077)
  • The night shift operates with 30 vehicles (carrying capacity of 450).

Transport Booking System

Number of bookings:
Semester 1

Number of bookings:
Semester 2

Variance

8142

8136

-6

The above table shows that there is no increase in the number of transport users for the second semester. The University projections are that R65 million will be spent on student transport this year, despite the uncertainty posed by the NSFAS funding.

In preparation for 2024, the University is working on a vehicle mix that will include 60-seater buses and minibuses for both Gqeberha and George campuses.

Monitoring of Shuttle Services

The transport marshals have been provided with Instacom devices to monitor and capture the statistics of transport users per shuttle stop. This, in turn, will help the Transport Department to determine accurate numbers of transport users per route.  We request transport users to communicate any challenges with the marshals and the Student Transport office.

4. Catering Services

Food prices

A comparative study conducted showed that on-campus canteens are selling food at more reasonable prices than those of other local food outlets.

On campus canteen sells:

  • White meat meal (Starch, 2 vegetables and chicken/pork) = R36
  • Red meat meal (Starch, 2 vegetables and beef) = R40

Local food outlet:

  • White meat meal (Starch, 1 veg and chicken) = R42,99
  • White meat meal (Starch, 1 veg and pork chop) = R42,99

Catering Outlets Closing time:

The Catering Department is in the process of adjusting its operating times. It is working with HR to ensure that the working hours are aligned with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Quality of Food, Menu

The Senior Director: Support Services is taking the issue of the food quality, as raised by students, very seriously. The Safety, Health, and Environment (SHE) Department has been formally tasked to investigate the matter and provide a formal report. For the purposes of avoiding bias and subjectivity, SHE will use external professional services to urgently conduct the investigation.

The Catering Committee was also tasked on 31 July 2023 to engage students and request menu suggestions. The due date for this feedback was 4 August 2023. To date, the Catering Department has not received any feedback. This matter is being followed up by the relevant Senior Director.

Variety of food offerings on campus

The Catering Department has embarked on a benchmark exercise with a number of universities to determine how to resolve the issue of supplying different food offerings on campus. The division is also currently in discussion with different franchises as to the possibility of providing such food options to both staff and students at affordable prices. To date, one response has been received from Famous Brands, which owns Steers, McDonalds and Debonairs.  

Meal Management System (MMS)

The Meal Management System (MMS) is linked to the catering residences which are earmarked for first year students. This was geared towards ensuring that first year students are not burdened with the responsibility of self-catering and can instead focus on their studies. 

The catering residences have kitchens, dining halls and staff to provide food services to students at an affordable price. The revenue generated from the meal booking system is therefore used to cover the costs incurred in providing meals for students.

The Catering Department is developing a proposal to ensure that both student and University financial sustainability needs are accommodated, and balanced. This proposal will be submitted to the institution’s governing structures for a decision, and which will be communicated.

Food Trucks

The University is operating one coffee truck, approved by MANCO to target sporting events and other areas that are far for the food outlets in our campuses. The remaining food trucks along University Way do not have a contract with the University. The University will look at this matter in tandem with the student entrepreneurship programme.

5. Final year students with less than 60 credits

Final year students who are affected by the NSFAS funding rule of less than 60 credits are advised to approach their respective faculties for individualised assistance based on their specific needs.

A meeting will also be held with the SRC to further explain this matter.

6. Conclusion

Mandela University remains committed to engagement with student leadership with a view to ameliorate their learning, teaching and service experience. Universities South Africa (USAf) has recently issued a communique on the position of the sector with regards to NSFAS policy decisions. The University will continue to take guidance from USAf-facilitated deliberations, and will continue to participate in national engagements, including primarily with DHET and NSFAS to address challenges relating to the administration of the direct-payment method recently introduced by NSFAS.

Management therefore urges our students and all stakeholders to continue to work together to constructively deal with the challenges we face, while protecting and advancing the University’s academic project.

Issued by

Nelson Mandela University Management

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za