The South African Students Congress ( Sasco) says the allocated additional sum of more than R960 million to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) should have been spent on future funding. The Higher Education Department says the money will be used to settle the historical debt owed to universities by more than 52 000 NSFAS-funded students.
Sasco Chairperson at Wits University, Mpendulo Mfeka, says the historical debt settlement is a short-term solution to long-term problems.
“I think this is narrow, and with great respect to the office of the ministry, to say that they are going to allocate close to a billion rand for historical debt, it adds to the problem. Going forward, five years from now or next year are they still going to add another billion rand for historical debt again? So, secondary to that, it doesn’t focus on a logical conclusion of what we’ve been calling for. It’s not only the historical debt that we’ve been calling for, but the issue of free education in our lifetime.”
Meanwhile, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) says it hopes the allocation of more funds to historical debt is the first step towards the implementation of free higher education.
Earlier, Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor announced that an additional sum of R967 million had been set aside to settle historical debt owed by over 52 000 NSFAS-funded continuing students.
Minister Pandor is pleased to announce that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has allocated an additional sum of R967 million to the NSFAS) to settle the historic debt owed to universities by 52 514 NSFAS funded continuing students.
— HigherEduTrainingZA (@HigherEduGovZA) March 24, 2019
Nehawu Spokesperson, Khaya Xaba, says while they welcome the move, they hope government will find a sustainable solution.
“We are saying that it should be heading in that directions of converting NSFAS into a vehicle for free education. Because ultimately, we won’t be able to sustain on the long run the issue of giving loans to students who must still pay back. Those who qualify for free education must then be assisted through NSFAS in order to access free higher education.”
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