“We have received half a million applications, and 430000 of those have already been processed,” he said. He said it was essential that NSFAS resolved the backlog of students who hadn't been paid their allowances.
NSFAS administrator Dr Randall Carolissen told an education conference that his priority in his first 10 days with the scheme was to clear the backlog.
“The newly improved online application system, which opened on Monday, allows each applicant to be considered with great care, and enormous attention is given to evaluating every application," Carolissen said.
"The opening of the 2019 applications has always been prioritised and we had to ensure that the minister is satisfied with our progress on the 2017 and 2018 backlog before opening the window," he said.
The Education for Social Justice Foundation has welcomed the opening of the application process for new students, saying that Parliament's portfolio committee on higher education should conduct a verification process to establish whether or not NSFAS had paid all outstanding monies to students for 2017 and 2018.
Deputy chairperson Hendrick Makaneta said: “The government has a duty to protect students from obstacles such as academic and financial exclusions, some of which happen due to incapacity and poor management of the available resources by organs such as NSFAS.”
The foundation said it would ask the portfolio committee to be hands-on by ensuring that Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor and the new NSFAS administrator appear in Parliament before the end of the year to assure the committee that all systems are ready for next year.