Govt to review tertiary funding

The South African government is to review finance allocations to public tertiary institutions across the country, with specific attention to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), according to the state news agency BuaNews.

It said this is to provide opportunities for higher learning for poor young people, some of whom have recently taken to the streets in protest against increasing tertiary education fees.

The Department of Education on Tuesday briefed the National Assembly education portfolio committee on the work done and challenges facing it regarding providing financial aid to tertiary institutions.

“For those people who have been clamouring for this review of [the] NSFAS, I have to say the review is of a cursory fashion at this moment. It was primarily interdepartmental,” said Minister of Education Naledi Pandor.

She said she has received a copy of a review conducted by the board of the NSFAS at the request of former education minister Kader Asmal.

“We had then asked the department to carry out a more detailed look at the scheme.
The department gave me copy of what they have done.”

Pandor further explained that both reports do not go far enough in examining the nature of the scheme and the possible changes that might be warranted in terms of existing models. She said the issue of subsidies to higher education as well as the nature and model of the NSFAS need to be part of the process of a fairly comprehensive review that will be undertaken.

She added that her department will be working with the National Treasury in carrying out a “fairly careful” analysis of the current status of financing higher education in South Africa.

Chief director of higher education Ahmed Essop told members that the volume of the system had grown from less than 600 000 in 2000 to 710 000 in 2003.

Major growth during that period was due to large numbers of student enrolment at the institutions.

As a result, the NSFAS has reinvested R280-million, the highest amount since its inception in 1994, the agency reported.

“When the scheme was started, there was a lot of scepticism about whether we will be able to get [back] the funds we injected into the scheme because all of the international evidence of similar schemes suggest that very few people pay back into the scheme after they have graduated.

“So it has been one of the successes of the scheme and partly it is because it is also linked to the South African Revenue Service that we are able to recollect the funds,” he said.

Members commended the department for its sterling work in this regard, but emphasised that there is a need to mobilise resources available in order to benefit the most needy people of this country.—I-Net Bridge

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