Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says former President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of free higher education for poor students has caused major problems for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Zuma made the surprise announcement in December 2017 on the eve of the watershed 54th African National Congress elective conference.
Below is a statement where Zuma made the announcement:
Nzimande was responding to questions from members of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) regarding the poor performance of NSFAS which received an audit disclaimer from the Auditor-General.
He says Zuma’s action had undermined the recommendations of a Commission appointed to look into funding for higher education which had found that the country had no capacity to fund free tertiary education.
“That announcement to say we are moving to a new scheme 14 days before it had to be implemented messed NSFAS big time, exposed the extent to which NSFAS didn’t have a system. It increased the number of NSFAS beneficiaries and what was worse with that decision, it ignored the work that was done by the Heher Commission and the transitional measures. That’s why we have agreed with the Treasury now that it will go back to the Heher Commission.”
Social Security Agency grant
Meanwhile, Nzimande says children who benefit from the Social Security Agency grant automatically qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) grant when they turn 18-years old.
However, he says a person who is already a NSFAS beneficiary, does not necessarily automatically qualify for the R350 temporary social relief distress grant.
This follows reports over the weekend that NSFAS has excluded some people from receiving grants.
Nzimande says, “If you receive any type of grant from government you don’t qualify for R350 including NSFAS students. NSFAS students are already receiving assistance from government for purpose of their studies. Therefore, you can’t be getting NSFAS grant and be getting the R350. The R350 is not meant for those. It’s meant for those who are unemployed who are not receiving any other form of a grant or assistance from government. So there is no exclusion.”