Mary Jane Mphahlele
The Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor says government will cough up more money for Nsfas, including an additional R7.1 billion to fund bursaries for poor and missing middle students.
Pandor made the announcement during a press briefing in Cape Town where she gave progress made so far in implementing free education.
The department together with National Students Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) were taken by surprise late last year when former president Jacob Zuma announced in December that higher education was to be free for students from poor and working-class families as of 2018.
Pandor said: “Additional government funding of R7.1 billion in 2018 has been allocated to fund bursaries for children of poor and working-class families entering universities and TVET colleges, with R4.5 billion set aside for qualifying university students and R2.6 billion for TVET college students”.
She said the department would increase the baseline allocation to Nsfas to support poor and working-class university and TVET students from R9.8 billion in the current financial year, to R35.3 billion in 2020/2021.
“This implies a need for improved efficiency and systems development at Nsfas. We will further allocate an additional R105 million over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to assist Nsfas to increase and strengthen its administrative capacity,” said Pandor.
She raised concerns over delays faced by students who are eligible for grants from the Nsfas, but were not yet allocated funds.She said the department was dealing with the matter.
Students from universities across the country have expressed concerns that they were accepted by Nsfas, and signed necessary documentation, but were not allocated funds.
Pandor has also expressed confidence in the student-centered funding scheme. This scheme will expedite funding through an expanded bursary scheme which replaced the previous loan and partial bursary scheme.
Pandor said under the new scheme, there will be preconditions to be satisfied before students are funded.
“Although first time entering students will not be expected to pay back the costs of their bursaries, they will be expected to meet certain conditions and expectations, including those relating to satisfactory academic performance and service conditions,” said Pandor.
The bursary is available to “poor and working-class South Africans students” from households with a gross combined annual income of R350 000.
The department aims to fund 83 000 students in 2018, while over 400 000 potential students applied for Nsfas this year.
Pandor has called out for cooperation between institutions and Nsfas to ensure the successful implementation of the new scheme.
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