Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe and Frennie Shivambu)
The national student financial aid program saw a 25% increase in funding requests for 2021. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said this shows growing demand for access to higher education and training opportunities.
The demand for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) increased by 25% in 2021, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said Monday.
Speak during a briefing on the latest developments in the post-school education sector, Nzimande said NSFAS received more than 750,000 applications for the 2021 academic year, an increase of approximately 185,000 applications compared to 2020.
This, said Nzimande, showed “a high level of demand for financial support and access to higher education and training opportunities.”
NSFAS Still evaluating applications and funding decisions should be made by mid-February, before the 2021 academic year which is due to start between March and mid-April.
To help verify student eligibility for funding, NSFAS had entered into a partnership with the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
“This partnership with SARS aims to accurately assess household income reported by SARS and compare with the information students use to apply for NSFAS scholarships, as an added check to ensure that only deserving students are funded.” , Nzimande said.
The ministry announced that it is developing an integrated referral system for the after-school sector called the Central Applications Service (CAS), a one-stop portal for students to apply to study at institutions, and to apply for housing and funding from of NSFAS and other regimes. The CAS will be be piloted in 2021 for applications to be studied in 2022.
Meanwhile, students will have access to an Application Information Clearinghouse (CACH) once the matrix results are released in late February. The CACH is the first phase of the CAS. Here, students who applied for studies but were rejected can be referred to other institutions where places are available in their area of ââinterest.
Laptops for NSFAS students
Nzimande said progress has been made in purchasing laptops for NSFAS students, which he said that in November would not be distributed until March of this year. After delays in the tendering process, contracts were awarded to five bidders: Pinnacle, CEOS Technologies, MLO Distinctive Solutions, ANG Group and East Side Group at a cost of between R3,863.56 and R6,200. per device.
News NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo, who was present at the briefing, said the first batch of laptops are expected to be delivered to the neediest students in March. The program reported that it takes around five weeks for the laptops to arrive after the order is placed and with the high volume of NSFAS students needing devices, they cannot be delivered all at once.
Advancement of the end of the 2020 academic year
Of the 26 universities in SA, 10 have completed the 2020 academic year, while 16 are still ongoing.
The University of Pretoria was the first to complete the year on November 13, while Mangosuthu University of Technology is expected to complete teaching, exams and assessments by March 26.
The department did not place restrictions on the number of students allowed on campuses, but it was the institutions’ responsibility to ensure proper hygiene and social distancing protocols.
However, if the department identifies a Covid-19 epidemic in an institution, it will be immediately closed, Nzimande said.
NSFAS beneficiaries continued to receive funding for the extended academic year despite the current pressure on NSFAS resources.
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Students in TVET colleges will come back in stages to:
- January 25;
- February 1st ;
- February 8; and
- February 15.
“Distance learning support will be in place for students returning in February 2021. Returning students for the term will be given priority given the compressed study time for these students, and N5 and N6 students will return before the N4 students, “the minister said.
More information on the plans for the 2021 academic year will be communicated at a later date, Nzimande said. DM