Today the South African Union of Student (SAUS) will meet with Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to discuss possible protests over bursary funds.
This follows Nzimande’s announcement last week Thursday concerning post-school opportunities for the matric class of 2016. Nzimande said the National Student Financial Scheme (NSFAS) “will be funding 205 000 first time entering and continuing eligible students at universities and 200 000 students at TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges in 2017.” In total NSFAS will be providing R15.2 billion in student loans and bursaries this year.
Both the government and NSFAS have made several concessions for the 2017 academic year. Nzimande said that NSFAS qualifying students will not pay registration fees. He explained that the government has “made arrangements through NSFAS to pay the registration fees for all NSFAS funded students as an upfront payment to universities and TVET colleges in January each year”.
The issue of historical debt has also been addressed. Previously students with historical debt would not be allowed to register. Nzimande said, “All NSFAS qualifying students who were registered in 2016, and were successful in their studies, but who have accumulated historical student debt with institutions of higher education, will be allowed to register in 2017.”
For the first time ever, NSFAS opened up a second phase of applications. NSFAS made the announcement last December after receiving a series of complaints from students who had not been able to apply. The application deadline for students applying to universities closes on January 20. For those applying to TVET colleges the deadline is February 14.
While attempts have been made to address the funding crisis in higher education, whether this will be enough to prevent student protests is a question that remains to be answered at the SAUS meeting with Nzimande today.