The Auditor General (AG) of South Africa has given NSFAS an unqualified audit opinion in its recent findings. The AG noted a significant improvement in the overall audit outcome compared to previous years although some challenges remain in the performance reporting.
NSFAS Board Chairperson, Ernest Khosa, has stated that although they are pleased with the outcome of the AG's report, there may still be challenges regarding funding going into the 2022 academic year.
As we project into what we foresee as problems next year, we may still have challenges regarding funding. We foresee that the number of students who are going to make applications to NSFAS is going to grow due to the impact of Covid-19. We have had a taste of that at the beginning of the year when we had a shortfall of about R6 billion.
Khosa adds that in 2021 they were fortunate enough to have the Higher Education department assist them with issues around funding. Following the report, NSFAS has said that they will bring various observations to Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande.
He also points that government assistance may not be enough for the long term and calls on the private sector to participate in addressing the issue.
The time has come for the private sector to come on board. The private sector is the biggest consumer of skills as we believe with the audit outcome that we got, we now have a leg to stand on to confront the private sector and say: the funding crisis in this country is our elephant, please come join us.
NSFAS is said to have started the process of reviewing some of its funding policies as they form part of the problems that they are currently experiencing.
According to Khosa, NSFAS has been mobilizing in universities throughout the country and engaging them to make inputs into how the policies should be changed as some of them are not sustainable. Some of these universities include the University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University.
Policies are going to change because they are unsustainable, for example, the eligibility criteria that dictates that a combined family income of R350 000 should be the criteria for funding is unsustainable. The fact that we are unable to fund students who are doing post-graduate diplomas is also unsustainable. So we have made policy changes which are to be submitted to the government.
Khoza also states that these policy changes have financial implications and that NSFAS needs more than the department of education to service these policy changes.
If the policies are not approved, it is likely that NSFAS may not be able to fund enough students in the following academic year.