Union Demands That NSFAS Requirements Must Be Expanded

Although the South African Union of Students welcomed the Higher Education Minister's recent speech, the union says there are a number of issues that remain unattended. Careers Portal caught up with SAUS Secretary, Lukhanyo Daweti, to get a sense of where the sector needs to make improvements including within NSFAS. 

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On Friday this past week, Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, made a speech in which he laid out the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out plan for the post-school education and training sector.

However, the South African Union of Students (SAUS) says that although they welcome the speech, there is a considerable number of issues that remain unresolved:

Firstly, we welcome the statement from the minister because it spoke to the issue of the vaccination roll-out in terms of the higher education sector and as a union, we believe that that is very critical because the majority of universities are operating virtually our sources currently, a number of students are not coping with that.

SAUS Secretary, Lukhanyo Daweti, says that they hoped the Minister would speak to the issue of funding for postgraduate students as there are still major challenges associated with the funding as the National Research Foundation (NRF) is not enough to fund all these students throughout the sector.

He also adds that the issue around the funding of students enrolled for PGCE, a post-graduate qualification in education, remains unresolved. 

"There are guidelines for this year that this particular qualification was defunded and we are still having major challenges there. Day in and day out students are still contacting us about that and we are still hoping because NSFAS did indicate that there can be resources made available after they have paid all the institutions," he told Careers Portal.

He continued to say:

But of course, since this is part of the funding guidelines they can't just release the funding because it will be part of irregular expenditure as per the auditor general, so it must be part of the announcement from the department.

Daweti also says that about nine universities, including major institutions such as Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Kwazulu-Natal, are yet to submit student registration templates to NSFAS.

So if those universities have not submitted their registration templates, NSFAS is unable or perhaps they can't even tell how many students are funded by NSFAS. So the delay has a ripple effect because students who are supposed to benefit from NSFAS don't receive their funding allocation.

He also points out that universities that opt to fund students from their own pockets tend to neglect NSFAS beneficiaries who have made appeal applications for funding. 

Some of the union's demands from the department also include: Restoration of stability at the Department and the clearance of student debts.

SAUS believes that the NSFAS household income threshold for students of R0 to R350 000 should be increased to about R0 to R600 000 due to the issue of the missing middle.

They are also calling for former student leaders to form part of university council appointments.

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