NSFAS to re-prioritise its budget to fund first-year students, says Blade Nzimande
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Johannesburg - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be releasing funds for first-year students and registration periods at public universities will be extended, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande announced on Thursday.
Nzimande was speaking at a media briefing hosted by the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.
Nzimande’s announcement comes after Wits University students took to the streets of Johannesburg this week to protest about being financially excluded from registering for the 2021 academic year.
On Wednesday Mthokozisi Ntumba, 35, who was in the Braamfontein area for a doctor’s visit was shot and killed allegedly by police as they tried to disperse the protesting students.
At the briefing on Thursday, Nzimande unpacked the NSFAS funding plan following a meeting with the Cabinet on Wednesday as they scrambled for solutions to the NSFAS funding crisis.
“Funding will be re-prioritised from the Department of Higher Education and Training in order to ensure that all deserving NSFAS qualifying students are able to receive funding support for the 2021 academic year,” he said.
This means that some of the programmes’ currently allocated funds, be it infrastructure, money will be taken to fund the students who are qualifying for NSFAS bursaries.
He said this would be part of the governments mid-term budget process.
Earlier this week, the minister said there was no money to fund first-years as the R35 billion budget had been spent on the extended 2020 academic year costs.
Nzimande said public universities had agreed not to exempt students who qualify for placement due to funding finalisation and that they had agreed to extend the registration period.
About 578 000 grade 12s sat for the 2020 National Senior Certificate examinations Of those 210 820 passed with a bachelor pass – enabling them to pursue a degree qualification – while 150 600 passed with a diploma pass which enables them to pursue a diploma qualification.
However, Nzimande said public universities have space for 184 315 first-year students.
Unpacking the NSFAS plan, Nzimande said the government was concerned about the issue of student debt. He said that issue together with the funding issue for the missing middle, which refers to those who do not qualify for NSFAS but also can’t afford tertiary tuition, would be considered as part of the policy review.
Final year students in debt can also register for the 2021 academic year, as long as they sign the Acknowledgement Of Debt contract, Nzimande said.
NSFAS funding parameter
The minister said there would be changes in the NSFAS guidelines, but those will be kept to a minimum. He said the core aim of NSFAS was to fund first undergraduate qualifications.
“No funding for new entrance on second or postgraduates; the exception will be those who have completed their Higher Certificate and qualify for funding for a degree or diploma course,” he said.
Living allowance for full-time or contact learning students is R15 000 for 2021. This includes the incidental allowance of R2 900.
Travelling students or those who live in accommodations that are not accredited is R 7 500 for 2021.
The learning material allowance is R5 200.