After protests rock Wits, Blade Nzimande says govt has found additional funding for NSFAS
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Johannesburg - Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande has announced that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) shortfall has been addressed.
He has told a press briefing that Cabinet agreed to allocate more funds to the student funding scheme.
Nzimande had announced earlier in the week that NSFAS battled a deficit that rendered it unable to confirm to the cohort of first-time entering university students whether it would fund them.
The cohort of new students who qualified for funding could not register. Universities extended the registration period to cater for these students.
Nzimande said the deficit was a result of a number of issues.
The Covid-19 pandemic was the first of these issues, Nzimande said earlier in the week.
Budget cuts that the government implemented prior and after the virus were another major reason for the NSFAS shortfall, Nzimande confirmed.
The number of students requiring funding had shot up due to job losses over the last year and pandemic has been blamed for thousands of retrenchments.
But Nzimande announced on Thursday that money has been found for the cohort of first-entering students.
“Following this decision, NSFAS will be able to release funding and the registration process at public universities can indeed now continue as planned,” said Nzimande.
“No NSFAS-qualifying students have been affected by these delays as universities have agreed to extend the registration period to ensure that students without funding decisions will not be prevented from accessing a place that they qualify for.
“We agreed with the vice-chancellors on Monday that the registration period is extended for first-time entering students until the end of next week.”
Earlier in the week, the South African Students Congress (SASCO) blasted the government over austerity measures it was imposing on higher education.
The ANC-aligned body said budget cuts affecting the NSFAS amounted to R6.3 billion.
“We deem the budget cuts on NSFAS and higher education in general as but another project to undermine and spit on the face of poor students from working-class backgrounds on their genuine struggles,” Sasco said.
Sasco planned to march against President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of this month.
It said it was mobilising unions and civil organisations for “mass rolling actions against the austerity measures”.