IN QUOTES | Blade Nzimande says NSFAS beneficiaries will receive funding for the 2021 academic year

12 March 2021 - 09:24
By cebelihle bhengu AND Cebelihle Bhengu
Minister of higher education and training Blade Nzimande has urged disgruntled students to remain calm.
Image: Picture: GCIS Minister of higher education and training Blade Nzimande has urged disgruntled students to remain calm.

Students can now breathe a sigh of relief as higher education minister Blade Nzimande said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will fund students for the 2021 academic year.

The minister briefed the media on Thursday after a meeting with the cabinet regarding the scheme's financial shortfall.

On Monday, Nzimande said NSFAS was unable to confirm funding eligibility for first-year students as it did not have sufficient funds. He cited the country's weak economy and the impact of Covid-19 among other factors. 

The minister said the cabinet meeting was not a result of student protest. He said the department became aware of the shortfall last year but its response was delayed by the extended academic year. 

Here are six quotes from his briefing 

Students are not affected 

“No NSFAS qualifying students will be affected by these delays, as universities have agreed to extend the registration period to ensure that students without funding will not be prevented from accessing a place that they qualify for.”


“Some of the demands that are being received by the government and universities relate to the debt of students who may not be funded by NSFAS but who are struggling to register because they have not been able to pay the debt, but are doing well academically.”

Appealing for calm

“I would also like to appeal for calm at our institutions of higher learning. Where there are matters of dispute and grievances, structures are in place for SRCs and institutional management to engage. I urge that student leaders make use of these mechanisms. We cannot afford to endure disruptions in the 2021 academic year, which is already starting later than usual due to the extended 2020 academic year.” 

NSFAS funding criteria

“NSFAS funding is for students completing their first undergraduate qualifications. In the past, NSFAS has provided funding for some limited second qualifications in key areas. Students who are already funded on these programmes will be able to continue as long as they meet the academic criteria.”

Funding doubled between 2018 and 2020

“Universities were supported with R17bn of NSFAS bursaries in 2018. In 2020, it went up to R28.2bn, almost doubling in two years. NSFAS funding in Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) colleges doubled between 2018, where it was R3bn and in 2020 was R6.5bn. This shows the government's commitment to supporting students from poor and working-class backgrounds.”

Funding for agricultural students 

“Through the national skills fund and the agricultural Seta, we will be providing for the first-time bursaries to approximately 4,000 students who are studying at agricultural colleges in our country using NSFAS criteria.”