Budget set aside for struggling students

Officials briefing the media on progress made in implementing free higher education. From left are, NSFAS CEO Steven Zwane, Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela, Higher Education Minister Dr Naledi Pandor, NSFAS board chairperson, Sizwe Nxasana, and the Director-General of Higher Education and Training, Gwebinkundla Qonde.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Naledi Pandor, has announced that an additional amount of R7 166 billion has been allocated to fund bursaries for students of poor and working class families enrolling in universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.

An amount of R4 581 billion has been set aside for qualifying university students and R2 585 billion for TVET college students.

Ms Pandor, along with her deputy minister, Buti Manamela and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board chairperson, Sizwe Nxasana, and other officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training, briefed the media on the progress made thus far in implementing free higher education last Tuesday, April 24.

Dr Pandor said that the baseline allocation to NSFAS to support students will increase from the R9 849 billion in 2017/18 to R35 321 billion in 2020/21. An additional R105 million has been allocated over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to assist NSFAS to increase and strengthen its administrative capacity as there is a need for improved efficiency and systems development.

Government will now support poor students through an expanded bursary scheme which replaces the previous loan and partial bursary scheme.

First time university students will be expected to meet certain conditions, and expectations including satisfactory academic performance and service conditions.

“The exact details are currently being finalised and I’m pleased to announce that good progress has been made since the announcement to ensure that the new bursary scheme is implemented successfully,” said Ms Pandor.

TVET college students from families earning a gross combined annual income of up to R350 000 and registered for National Certificates and Report 191 programmes at any public TVET college will receive a bursary to cover their tuition and learning materials in all years of study. In addition, registered TVET college students who meet the requirements for travel and accommodation and meals will be supported.

Ms Pandor said the implementation required cooperation between NSFAS and institutions. “My department has been working closely with NSFAS Universities South Africa, (USAF), the South African Colleges Principals’ Organisation ( SACPO) and student representative councils of universities and TVET colleges to ensure the effective rollout and implementation of the Department of Higher Education and Training Bursary Scheme in 2018,” said Ms Pandor.

The minister has, however, admitted that there are still challenges with regards to system integration between NSFAS and institutions and as a result, the submission of registration data to NSFAS has been affected.

Ms Pandor said the exchange of data is crucial as it does not only confirm to NSFAS that students assessed to be eligible for funding in terms of the test are registered at an institution, but it also enables NSFAS to generate a bursary agreement form which must be signed by the registered student before funding is allocated to the student. Ms Pandor said some institutions have reported to have submitted the required data but students have not received funds.

“I have instructed NSFAS to urgently address the integration issues and work with the affected institutions. It is crucial that NSFAS finalises the 2018 funding decisions urgently to ensure that all eligible students are confirmed and bursary agreements are signed and students get their allowances,” said Ms Pandor.