From the start of this year, qualifying students are now studying for free. If you are a student funded by NSFAS (the National Student Financial Aid Scheme), then you get your bursary in the form of vouchers sent to your phone. These are called sBux Vouchers.
You get to study for free... But "daddy NSFAS" makes sure you spend your money on the "right" things and at the "right" places. You can only spend your sBux NSFAS Vouchers at registered merchants.
Want to use your sBux to pay for your accommodation? Then your landlord must be registered on sBux. Want to buy food? Only at an sBux registered merchant.
Students wanting quick cash, or wanting to buy items not available at sBux merchants, have resorted to selling their sBux vouchers for cash. Usually at a discount.
NSFAS rules are pretty clear that students "may not redeem food, books or private accommodation vouchers" for cash. On the NSFAS Facebook site, students are warned that transferring or selling their sBux allowances is illegal and should be reported to the NSFAS hotline. According to NSFAS, selling sBux is fraud.
On Facebook groups, many students are offering to buy or sell vouchers — from the person wanting to buy vouchers for a "10 percent charge only", to the person offering a voucher for half its real value.
With Facebook being the only free internet access for many students, there are now hundreds of thousands of students in these groups. Group admins might make rules against it, but Facebook discussions are nearly impossible to control or police.
Some students say that it is none of NSFAS' business what they do with their study vouchers. They believe it is "their money", and that they should be able to use it as they want to.
It looks like very quickly "Free Studies" have become a sought-after "job". At least if you are studying you have an income.
According to the NSFAS website, there are more than 80,000 students on sBux. Since 2014, nearly R500-million has been given to students.