Announcement on student debt-relief expected this month

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Those who applied for funding from the National Skills Fund to help pay off student loans so they can obtain their certificates will soon know if they were successful or not, said Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga.


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In 2011, the Department of Higher Education allocated R200 million to the National Skills Fund to enable students with historic debt to obtain their certificates.
Applicants had until the end of January 2012 to apply to the fund and applications are currently being processed, Motshekga said.
At a briefing to outline government?s Human Development Cluster?s plans for the year, Motshekga said the amount available in funding to students had almost doubled - with the allocation to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme having increased from R3.3 billion in the 2010 financial year to R5.5 billion for the current financial year.
As at 30 September last year, R753 million had been claimed under the department?s financial support programme covering 23 453 students.
Students that graduate will have their student loans converted into bursaries, she said.
In the current financial year, R1.24 billion was allocated to the Further Education and Training (FET) colleges bursary scheme and currently 122 911 students are being supported by bursaries and loans.
The recent national skills accord between the government, business and labour included a commitment for businesses to take on graduates of FET colleges.
Deputy Minister of Higher Education Hlengiwe Mkhize said President Jacob Zuma planned to make a visit to one of the FET colleges soon.
Motshekga said a national skills fund project, the National Rural Youth Service Corps, had been initiated to recruit and develop youths between the ages of 18 and 35 years to be trained as para-professionals in rural areas.
She said the first phase to set up two universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape would begin in the 2012/2013 financial year.
The minister said a website that provides career guidance to pupils reaches 72 000 users a month and a SA Qualification Authority (Saqa) helpline responds to 1 000 calls per month, would be expanded.
Motshekga said tens of thousands of students were benefiting from workplace placements, artisan training and learnerships, these include:
- 8 898 FET and Universities of Technology graduates who were last year placed in workplaces and a further 4 191 students that were placed in workplaces while studying.
- 30 117 unemployed pupils and 19 192 workers who have entered learnerships, while 11 335 learners entered the artisan training systems, with 8 102 learners already passing and obtaining trade certificates.
- The number of students in N1 to N3 for artisan development is 57 212; the number of NC (V) programmes is 120 053; the number of N4-N6 as post-matric courses of study is 164 701 and the number of learners in skills and occupational programmes is 85 519.
To improve the country?s focus on developing skills, a green paper was released last month on post-school education and training, while the Department of Science and Technology was developing a Human Capital Development Strategy, which focuses on research, scholarship and innovation to increase the number of researchers and boost the number of black students that enrol in post-graduate degrees.
Motshekga said the Department of Science and Technology?s National Research Fund Internship Fund Internship Programme provided 789 graduates with workplace experience between 2008 and 2010 financial years.
She said while research chairs made up 1.45% of South African authors, they were responsible for about 4.3% of publications in ISI journals, which was evidence that the department?s initiatives to promote science and technology were paying off.
These initiatives include the SA Research Chairs Initiative and centres of excellence, which both helped encourage the production of a new generation of researchers and while supporting black researchers. - BuaNews

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