NSFAS Has Not Sent Funding Decisions - Here's Why

It's now been brought to light that NSFAS has not updated prospective beneficiaries' application status. The Department of Higher Education has now explained what is happening behind the scenes at NSFAS and given insight into why funding decisions have not been made.

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NSFAS applicants have not received any funding decisions for 2021 and this was finally explained by the Minister and Director-General of Higher Education.

Director-General (DG) of the Department of Higher Education (DHET), Gwebs Qonde, said:

As a result of Covid-19, the academic year had to be extended. The extension of the academic year was not accompanied by additional funding and during those months of the extension, students were paid allowances and other financial requirements towards helping them to carry on with their studies.

This is said to have contributed to the shortfall of funds at NSFAS which has lead to their being no funding available for first entering students.

NSFAS is not able to commit to funding students if the funds are not there. Blade Nzimande, SA's Minister in charge of Higher Education said during a briefing on Monday that NSFAS does not have the funding to confirm which first time entering students can be funded this year.

In terms of the laws and policies regulating public finances for departments and entities including the Public Finances Management Act, NSFAS is not able to commit to funding for students without the requisite budget available to support this commitment.

The DG went on to explain, "The question of the processes at NSFAS at the present moment got compounded by the intricacies of Covid-19 that has struck the country and inadvertently struck the system."

NSFAS and the department has said that they want to make sure that deserving students are not affected, which includes first entering students. 

The Minister of Finance made a commitment in his Budget Vote Speech that all deserving students will not be disadvantaged as a result of these developments. Funding for them is guaranteed.

The DG does however emphasise that this far, there has been no money going elsewhere and it's only money that was paid to students. 

Qonde now says that institutions should work out reprioritisation of funds and direct them to funding all mechanisms and measures needed to fight the repercussions of Covid-19 at an institutional level.

Although NSFAS has not secured the funding to pay fees for first time entering students, the Minister said that he is "hopeful" that the National Cabinet will approve a plan this week that will commit the funds needed.

Due to these issues, Universities will be extending their registration periods for first time entering students for two more weeks. 

The Minister will soon hold another briefing and first time entering students should have more clarity on the matter by the end of the week.

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