The Minister of Higher Education And Training parliamentary’s reply to a question submitted by the DA regarding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has revealed that over R650 million of the amounts set aside for grants in the form of allocations (loans and bursaries) for the current year ending in March were not put to use.
While it was further disclosed that about R750 million was equally unused in the last financial year, Belinda Bozzoli, DA’s Shadow Minister to the aforementioned ministry, stated that “prospective students can no longer be excluded from higher education institutions due to the inefficiency of NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education.
It is unfathomable that while 8.2 million South Africans are without work, or having given up looking, young people are being denied opportunities to study because the Department cannot get the available funding available to those who need it.”
To her, “it is a slap in the face of poor students desperately seeking the financial means to acquiring a degree, which would enable them to enter the job market with a better chance of providing for themselves and their dependents.”
Thus, the Shadow Minister charged that the continued inefficiency that has come to characterize the NSFAS can no longer be tolerated. As stated, “it has become clear that neither NSFAS nor the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, grasp the seriousness of issues currently facing Higher Education in South Africa, or simply do not care for the needs of our students.”
Among other things, it was as well disclosed that “Minister Nzimande does not know how many students are in NSFAS’s “missing middle” bracket, how much it will cost to fund these students (and) how much library resources or outsourcing on campuses are going to cost this year.”
Based on the above, Bozzoli iterated that the Minister is not in a position to provide the leadership the education sector needs, “in this time of crisis if he does not even know how much key cost drivers will cost.
He needs to, at the very least, provide this information as soon as possible to constructively work towards finding solutions for the current challenges facing higher education,” Bozzoli argues.