NSFAS Maintains It Has Made Notable Progress Despite Challenges



Over the past few weeks, the country’s largest state-funded bursary scheme, NSFAS has been in the spotlight over its past student funding allocations. However, the scheme’s top officials have also been quick to point out its impact in expanding access to further education for aspiring underprivileged students. 



The National Student Financial Aid Scheme has disbursed over R100 billion to more than 38 million students since its inception in 1991. In 2018, the scheme changed from a loan to a bursary scheme.

The decision came after a wave of FeesMustFall protests which saw the introduction of a Fee-free tertiary education for those who qualify.

The Department of Higher Education Director General, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi explained that the change has resulted in significant progress in granting access to education to those who cannot afford it.

“The NSFAS budget grew from R5 billion in 2015/16 to R47 billion today, funding 1.1 million students, or 80% of all university students and 90% of all TVET college students.”

However, the Director General also acknowledged that there have been errors in the system, with the recent example being 40,000 students who unduly benefited despite not meeting the income threshold for NSFAS funding.

He emphasized the need to hold NSFAS accountable for these allegations, while also recognizing that every young person deserves access to education. 

To address the issue of access, a Task Force has been established to look at a comprehensive model that includes the "missing middle" and aims to ensure that all students can access education.

Dr Sishi also discussed the issue of repayment, noting that while students are expected to repay their loans, as they do so, NSFAS is making more opportunities available for new students. So far, 28 proposals have been submitted.  

He also emphasized the need to expand opportunities for graduates, including through placements and scholarships, and the importance of building capacity in the TVET system to absorb more people into the labour market.

“The majority of our young people aspire to study further but more need to go to TVET colleges, The capacity of the TVET system to absorb more people is important.” explained

The Director General concluded that the upcoming BRICS summit in South Africa is an opportunity to discuss these issues with countries aligned with the country and to look into building more colleges and campuses, repurposing buildings, and exploring online learning.

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Over the past few years, it has been the norm to see student protests in institutions across the country. Some of the issues complained about included student accommodation, and funding related issues.






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