Government accused of failing to prioritise students amid NSFAS shortfall

09 March 2021 - 13:00 By cebelihle bhengu
The future of thousands of first-time students who applied for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme remains uncertain, says higher education minister Blade Nzimande.
The future of thousands of first-time students who applied for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme remains uncertain, says higher education minister Blade Nzimande. 
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on Monday that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is facing a financial shortfall has resulted in questions from the public and students about what went wrong. 

This means the scheme is unable to confirm eligibility for first-year students who applied for funding.

Addressing the media about funding decisions for new students in 2021, Nzimande said the country’s weak economy, budget cuts and Covid-19 are contributing factors to the shortfall.

Nzimande said the government is working on a solution and is treating the matter with extreme urgency. He said options will be presented to the cabinet for consideration on Wednesday.

Universities will extend registrations for first-time students by two weeks, said the minister. He said first-time NSFAS students will not be disadvantaged.

“We are not expecting our universities to take fewer NSFAS students than they planned to take, and the vice-chancellors have agreed first-time NSFAS students will not be disadvantaged.

“We are doing everything possible to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency. We are quite hopeful, in light of the commitment by the minister of finance, that no deserving student will be turned away if they meet the requirements,” said Nzimande.

Returning university and TVET college students who passed the 2020 academic year will receive funding, said the minister.

Nzimande will announce the outcomes of the cabinet meeting later this week.

On social media, many were quick to weigh in. Here are some of the reactions:


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