Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor File picture: Supplied
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s application period for funding for next year will officially open on Monday, Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor announced yesterday.

The announcement came after Pandor held a meeting with National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) officials, who are working around the clock to clear a backlog of about 63 000 students, some of whom have been waiting to receive funding since 2017.

Earlier this month, Pandor said the application period for 2019 would not be opened until progress was made in clearing the backlog. The NSFAS board was dissolved and an administrator appointed to get administration back on track.

Pandor assured students who had earlier applied for funding that they would begin receiving payments from today. “Students who have signed their bursary contracts, and (whose) details have been verified by the tertiary institution at which they are studying, will be receiving their money over the next four days. 

"However, not all of the (registered applicants) will receive their funding this week, because there are queries. What I’m happy about is that we now have numbers that give us a proper picture of the problem,” Pandor said.

Department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said the decision to open the application period was taken after a process of application-testing was completed with a “focus group” of high school pupils. The testing yielded positive results in terms of the user-friendliness of the funding application system.

“NSFAS has put in place a comprehensive communications plan, which involves partnering with institutions of higher learning and training, the National Youth Development Agency, community structures and organisations to ensure that all eligible students are reached,” Ngqengelele said.

“There will be support for students at universities where they wish to apply (to study).” Funding applicants would have to wait for a maximum of a week before being notified their applications were received by the NSFAS. 

Should an applicant not receive notification, they are requested to call NSFAS’s toll free call centre at 08000 NSFAS (67327).