EDUCATION activist Hendrick Makaneta has called on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to publish all qualifications that will not be funded on its website.
Makaneta says this will make it easier for students to know whether they will receive funding or not.
He says that it’s disturbing that institutions of higher learning continue to register students in programmes that the scheme will not fund, without informing them of the consequences of such enrolments.
“There’s no doubt that currently there is a lot of confusion because the majority of students do not have information about courses that will not be funded. NSFAS seems to be communicating with institutions about decisions that affect the future of students, yet students are not brought on board. It is understandable that as we progress into the fourth industrial revolution, some qualifications may have to be phased out in order to prepare students for the new world economy that will require different skills.”
Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said the National Student Aid Financial Scheme (NSFAS) has received more than 650 000 applications for the 2021 academic year.
Nzimande has attributed the increase to the impact of COVID-19 on jobs.
“We expect this number to increase quite substantially as past experience has shown that it is in the last two weeks of the application cycle when some students tend to apply in greater numbers. Rough estimates suggest that there will be over 800 000 new applications for the 2021 application cycle by the closing date at the end of November 2020. This increase also is as a result of retrenchments and loss of jobs or income due to COVID-19.”
Most of these applications are from KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo and social grant beneficiaries.
skillsportal.co.za reports NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo, sent out a circular to universities, explaining that the scheme was in the process of reviewing the current qualifications that are being funded.
A decision was then made to no longer fund qualifications with the word “national” in the title. This decision will affect first time enrolling students studying the following qualifications:
- BTECH qualifications
- Legacy 2-year diplomas
- Legacy two-year diplomas
- Legacy NQF Level 8 qualifications
- Bridging programmes
- Bachelor of Education (BEd)
- Bachelor of Nursing Science (BCur) qualifications
However, those courses are all being phased out so students are not able to start studying those courses. Those who have already started on those courses can complete them and will still be funded by NSFAS if they were supported up until now.
NSFAS confirmed in a statement that those wishing to study teaching could still register for the new version of the BEd degree that will be offered at National Qualifications Framework Level 7. (The previous degree was at level 8). The B Cur (nursing) qualification has been replaced by a new Bachelor of Nursing degree which is eligible for NSFAS funding.
Funding for postgraduate qualifications has also been put under review as NSFAS considers if these qualifications will be funded.
The decision to review funding came after cuts were made to the national budget, as R1.1 billion of the Higher Education budget was allocated to the South African Airways (SAA) rescue plan.
The Higher Education sector has been advocating for students to study qualifications that are less concentrated.
In 2020, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Blade Nzimande released the National List of Occupations in High Demand (OIHD).
“This list is updated every two years, and marks an important step towards helping us understand better the needs of the labour market, and signals opportunities where our students and graduates are likely to stand a better chance of finding employment,” said Nzimande.
The Minister said students should use this list as a guide for the qualifications they should study towards.
“Too many students rush into courses or programmes that we’re not short of in South Africa and are oversubscribed, which is breeding unemployment.”
“This is just breeding unemployment and we are still spending a good percentage of NSFAS money to support students who are not going to get jobs at the end of the day because they are in areas that are not in high demand… so students also need to look at this list,” said Nzimande.
Students still interested in studying teaching can apply for the Funza Lushaka Bursary Scheme. The bursary gives support to students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate teaching qualifications.
The Department of Health will continue to provide nursing bursaries to students in need, however, this will not be enough to cover all students that will be affected by the NSFAS budget cut.
More bursary opportunities for students studying a wide range of qualifications can also be found on the Bursaries Portal.
(SOURCE: SABC NEWS)