Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande says government has set aside an additional R6.912 billion to support university education.
Minister Nzimande on Monday said this was a strong indication that government had listened to the concerns raised by university students last year during their march against university fee increases.
“As an immediate measure, we have resolved the zero percent fee increment for 2016 with universities, which amounted to R2.33 billion… University students who meet the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) means test will not be required to pay upfront payments when registering this year,” said the Minister.
The R6.912 billion additional funding includes the R2.33 billion for resolving the zero percent fee increment; R2.543 billion is for NSFAS to provide loans to assist 71 753 identified students, who were either partially funded or not funded at all in the past three academic years, and R2.039 billion is for NSFAS to ensure that beneficiaries who are still in the university system receive financial support to complete their studies.
The Minister said NSFAS has been allocated over R700 million for full bursaries for scarce and critical skills for the current year from the National Skills Fund (NSF).
“This funding is made available through the financial aid offices at universities, and students wishing to make use of these bursaries are advised to enrol for critical skills study programmes, which include science, commerce, health sciences, engineering and many others,” said Minister Nzimande.
The Minister said NSFAS has also earmarked R72.9 million in the 2016 academic year to provide financial aid to disabled students in universities.
“The department is committed to expanding access and success in our institutions for students who have special needs,” said the Minister.
At technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, government pays 80% of the programme cost of the student’s choice, with an additional allocation being made dependent on the type and severity of the disability.
Minister Nzimande said there were approximately 517 402 opportunities available in the post-school system to those who finished matric in 2015.
These opportunities, the Minister said, are found in 26 universities, 50 TVET colleges and various workplace-related training opportunities supported through the 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), which help to promote and fund occupational/skills programmes linked to educational institutions and workplace.
The Minister said there were 212 472 new entrant opportunities at universities, 133 551 engineering and business studies opportunities at TVET colleges, 88 7994 occupationally-directed opportunities in collaboration with TVET colleges, SETAs and employers.
The Minister also said there were about 30 750 new artisan learners to be registered, 51 835 learning programme opportunities in the form of 5 087 apprenticeships, 9 073 bursaries, 20 138 learnerships, 17 537 skills and work readiness programmes supported through the SETAs.
The Minister advised those who were not successful in completing their matric to consider rewriting their examinations or access all the sources of relevant information from his department to explore their options.
The Minister said the intake of students at the new universities has increased.
“This year, the enrolment will increase from 130 to 797 students at Sol Plaatjie University (SPU) and from 140 to 940 at the University of Mpumalanga.
“The Sefako Makgatho Health and Science University (SMU) will be entering its second year of operation with an intake of 1 300 students,” said the Minister.
He said South Africa recently established its ninth medical school — the first built in the democratic South Africa — and will open its doors for the first intake of 60 new students at the University of Limpopo this month.
“This is the second historically disadvantaged university to be involved in the training of our medical doctors and as linked, over the longer term, to the Presidential Project of building an academic hospital in Limpopo,” said the Minister.