New broom for student fund
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higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has made what should be one of the better decisions of his tenure by appointing Sizwe Nxasana to head the government’s student loan and bursary scheme.
After he studies in at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the outgoing group chief executive of First Rand is expected to introduce and implement financial controls which will hopefully see the funding body being turned around and run efficiently.
Year in and year out, there are student protests largely driven by dissatisfaction with NSFAS allocations, which are fraught with corruption and incompetence.
Demand also outstrips the funds available. There are presently 200 000 students on the fund, which is R9.5 billion this year. It should be enough for qualifying students.
But we see those who do not qualify receiving funding, spoiling fair distribution. Part of the students’ frustration with the funder is that the money is often delayed, meaning they are unable to continue their studies because they cannot access their results.
Nxasana is a chartered accountant with an impeccable record at public and private sector institutions. He is also an entrepreneur who is passionate about education, which he funds through his family foundation.
Nzimande said: “His experience in the financial sector, as well as his background as a chartered accountant, makes him the ideal person to lead NSFAS, to address its challenges and deliver on its mandate. I am confident in his abilities to lead NSFAS into the future. I cannot think of a more appropriate person to lead the NSFAS board at this stage.”
Another challenge facing the scheme is its debt collection methods, which are as good as non-existent.
But systems alone will not suffice. Beneficiaries of the NSFAS must understand that repaying their loans makes funds available for others like them who need the wherewithal to realise their potential and dreams.