R49bn allocated for NSFAS as Nzimande promises to support poor, ‘missing middle’ and postgrads
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande used his 2022/23 budget to affirm the government’s commitment to provide financial help to poor and missing-middle students.
Delivering his budget in the National Assembly on Thursday, Nzimande announced that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will receive R49bn for the current financial year.
This makes the financial aid scheme one of the biggest winners in the overall budget of R130.1bn, with an annual average increase of 7% allocated to the department.
While the department historically grappled with an increased demand for financial support from disadvantaged students, Nzimande expressed concern at what he described as the growth trajectory of post-school education and training (PSET).
“Government remains firmly committed to financially support students from poor and working-class backgrounds, while also putting a sustainable mechanism in place to support students from the so-called ‘missing middle’ and postgraduate students,” said Nzimande.
Now, the overall total enrolments within the public university sector have been projected to be 1,110,361 for the 2022 academic year, he said. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in TVET colleges went up from 452,277 in 2020/21 to 580,849 in 2022/23, according to Nzimande.
The budget will be distributed between six programmes, namely administration, planning, policy and strategy, university education, technical and vocational education and training, skills development, and community education and training, he said.
The minister said of the total budget, R45.9bn included funding reprioritised from the departmental budget to ensure that the full shortfall for the NSFAS is addressed in 2022/23 to support students during the 2022 academic year.
The total amount available for investment in infrastructure projects across the 26 universities during the 2022/23 to 2023/24 MTEF period is R7.5bn, with R2.9n going towards student housing for the delivery of 16,858 beds across 11 universities, he said.
“Clearly R2.9bn is inadequate for student accommodation, therefore we will seek private-sector partnerships, including those already indicating they are investing on their own,” said Nzimande.
Among several projects in the pipeline, Nzimande said his department had set aside R10m for the expansion and relocation of the University of Zululand teacher training, the building of the Sekhukhune Skills Development Centre to the value of R146.9m and a number of campus-level projects to TVET infrastructure initiatives to the tune of R2.9bn.
Nzimande was pleased to announce that significant progress was made by the ministerial task team on possibly coming up with a funding model to support students in the missing- middle income bracket and postgraduate students who cannot secure funding from the National Research Foundation.
“I must indicate that the ministerial task team (MTT) is already engaging the Banking Association SA and significant progress is made in this regard.
“The MTT will be presenting to me its final report by the end of May,” he said.
The minister indicated that the National Skills Fund (NSF) would provide support in the form of scholarships and bursaries in 2022/2023 to the tune of R866m and expected to be distributed as follows:
- R221m to the National Research Foundation;
- R527m to NSFAS;
- R80m to the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development; and
- R9m for the department's internal scholarships.
Nzimande's budget was criticised by opposition MPs who expressed concerns ranging from the curriculum, gender ratios in institutions, violence, race, student accommodation and debt.
“Yes of course we admit a lot more needs to be done, but progress has been made,” Nzimande said.
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