Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor says she does not anticipate any funding and registration hiccups during the opening of institutions of higher learning next month.
In an interview with Inside Education on Thursday, Pandor said that her work that her department has put in resolving the financial and management challenges at the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has started bearing fruit.
“There has been a significant progress at the NSFAS. We have sorted out funding, managerial and IT systems challenges. We have also appointed Randall Carolissen as the administrator of the scheme and a team of experts to address IT systems, financial management and human resource issues,” said Pandor.
Pandor said her department has already paid universities towards the education of more than 300 000 students for the 2019 academic year.
“We are happy with the progress made so far. We have paid universities and colleges. This week I was at coastal colleges in KwaZulu-Natal and NSFAS funding has been allocated to all students. Our concern is mainly in the college sector but we are confident everything will be resolved before the opening of universities and colleges in February,” said Pandor.
Tertiary institutions were engulfed in chaos last year during registration after students organizations, including Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Student Command demanded that all students who qualified for fee-free education be admitted.
The auditor-general raised serious concerns about a lack of internal controls in the NSFAS and other problems. There were also reports that NSFAS was facing funding problems as students faced a backlog of payments.
The institution was also hit by the resignations of NSFAS CEO Steven Zwane and chairperson of the board Sizwe Nxasana last year amid allegations of mismanagement.
Treasury allocated R57 billion for fee-free tertiary education for students from households earning less than R350 000 a year.
This year, the fee-free education will also extend to second year students and government hopes to cover everyone in five years.