In response to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, revealed that only 44% of students who have applied for NSFAS funding for this year have been successful in their efforts to date.
It is deeply concerning that it is nearly May and thousands of students still face uncertainty regarding how they will pay for their studies.
Parliament reopens next week and the Minister must urgently make a ministerial statement addressing the reasons for the unacceptable delay in processing NSFAS applications and what he plans to do to speed up the process.
In 2016 the number of students funded by NSFAS was 470 352. However, to date, only 317 865 students have been funded for 2017, out of an unprecedented 717 477 applications. The Minister needs to explain why fewer students have received funding this year, despite a R37 billion increase in the budget allocated to Higher Education from 2016 to 2017.
Yesterday, in a statement, Minister Nzimande boasted that “[more] than two million students studying at South Africa’s public Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges have been funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) since 2013”.
Although this is a welcome achievement, the Minister simply cannot ignore the fact that so many applications are yet to be processed this year. There also appear to be severe delays in actually delivering funds to those who have been supported. Exams are coming up in a few weeks while thousands of students across South African tertiary campuses are currently struggling to survive, as they have not received any funding for accommodation, books and food.
This is an appalling state of affairs and must be addressed immediately.
The DA will now submit further Parliamentary questions to ask the Minister to clarify the situation for 2017, and to find out whether his department has approached the universities and TVET colleges to provide assistance to these struggling students.
The majority of students who apply for NSFAS funding come from poor backgrounds, with the financial assistance from NSFAS often being their only source of income to buy food and other necessities. We are concerned about those students from poor backgrounds who did not receive any assistance, or who still wait in limbo to find out whether NSFAS has funded them.
The Department cannot boast about 2 million NSFAS students being funded since 2013, while only 44% of applications received this year have been successful to date.
The DA urges the Minister to immediately intervene, in what can only be described as a humanitarian emergency.