Nzimande Wants To Change How NSFAS Works

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While plans are in place to fund students who fall into the missing middle, the higher education minister suggested that funding should be based on the programmes students are enrolling in. This could have an impact on students who are not enrolled in programmes that are considered scarce-skill programmes. 

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Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande recently announced that the Cabinet has approved for the next phase of a funding model targeting the "missing middle." Missing middle students come from homes that afford to send them to a tertiary education institution. 

However, they also do meet the financial requirements to be funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). NSFAS provides comprehensive bursaries to students at public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in South Africa.

While funding the missing middle would be significant in ensuring thousands of students can obtain qualifications, questions have been raised about the feasibility and whether this would require a significant change or reform to the NSFAS funding model. 

Furthermore, Nzimande advocated for prioritising funding based on specific degrees, programs, and certificates aligned with the economic needs of the country.

He posed the following question, "Do we simply allocate funds to all applicants approaching NSFAS, or do we strategically prioritise certain programs, degrees, and certificates based on the country's skill requirements?"

Corruption Is The Real Problem At NSFAS 

Jonathan Jansen, Professor in Education at Stellenbosch University says the suggestion that funding should be reliant on which subjects a learner passes in high school or by the courses they pursue in university or college is nonsense. 

Jansen adds that the evolving technology could change what skills will be required by the workforce constantly. They point to the emergence of artificial intelligence recent years as a example of this. 

Any country has been unable to tell you exactly what the economy, what business and industry would need in ten, twenty, thirty years down the road. For example... none of us twenty, thirty years ago was speaking about artificial intelligence because we did not know that the world would be so radically transformed.

They add that humanities degrees are also important and should not be defunded. They questioned whether the goal in South Africa is to create a society where everyone possesses practical problem-solving skills or one where individuals also embody the foundational values inherent in human existence.

if art historian[student] showed up for NSFAS funding with an AI student, you have have to fund both. The art history person takes care of our horrific destruction of human rights and humanity within in three-and-a-half centuries and that student must, as part of a humanities department fund. 

Jansen argues that the crux of the matter lies in addressing corruption within NSFAS. He contended that by efficiently dealing with corruption, ample funds could be secured to cover a comprehensive spectrum of academic pursuits by students.

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