JOHANNESBURG – The Higher Education and Skills in South Africa report released by Statistics South Africa on Friday showed that access to funding for tuition was a major concern for some of the youth who could not pursue higher education.

This is despite the report stating that between 2010 and 2017 a total of R70.8billion in National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding was granted to more than 3 million students.

In 2017, 85.7percent of the money that was allocated to NSFAS was granted to university students, while 14.3 percent was granted to students at TVET colleges.

The statistics agency said there has been an up-tick in enrolment numbers, but that there was still a significant gap between gender participation in the higher education system.

“Despite gains in higher education participation rates, gender disparity was still a challenge as well as participation equity concerns for students from low-income backgrounds,” StatsSA said.

Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor announced the allocation of an additional R967million to NSFAS.

The amount will go towards the settling of the historic debt to the universities by 52514 NSFAS-funded students that are still continuing with their studies.

However, the allocation does not include those students that are already fully funded on the revised threshold of the joint minimum income of the parents.

The World Bank earlier this year warned that the projected fiscal outcome of the new education financial aid scheme would balloon to more than R170billion in the next five years and cast doubt on South Africa’s capacity to meet its White Paper enrolment targets.

The Washington-based lender said the nascent scheme would absorb a much higher proportion of the country's budgetary needs.

Business Unity South Africa chief executive Tanya Cohen said: “South Africa's skills and education framework remains out of alignment and continues to undermine the country’s growth potential.

"It has also been referenced by various institutions as a key impediment in realising the country's growth potential as a developing economy,” Cohen said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last month said that while South Africa has made significant improvements in basic and tertiary education enrolment, the country still suffers from significant challenges in the quality of educational achievement by almost any international metric.

The IMF further found that money was not the main issue since South Africa's education budget was comparable to OECD countries as a percent of gross domestic product and exceeds that of most peer sub-Saharan African countries in per capita terms.