Higher Education and Training Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has sent a stern warning to people who continue to defraud the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Briefing media on the opening of the 2023 NSFAS application process on Tuesday, Nzimande welcomed the proclamation signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to allow the SIU to investigate maladministration and fraud at NSFAS.
He said the department, together with law enforcement agencies, is following all the cases where there are suspected instances of fraud and corruption.
“NSFAS has committed to cooperate fully with the process to ensure that any actions, which threaten the appropriate provision of funding to deserving students, are dealt with and perpetrators are brought to book.
“I also wish to point out that there is no chaos at NSFAS or any tender irregularities, as claimed by OUTA [Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse]. Instead, NSFAS is continuing to make the country proud by giving the children of the working class and the poor the opportunity to access and succeed in the post school education and training,” Nzimande said.
Comprehensive student funding model
The final report of the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) to review the sustainability of the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) student financial aid system was submitted to Cabinet on 14 September 2022, with the recommendations.
“One of the recommendations put forward by the MTT is for the development of a well communicated 10-year plan to outline how a comprehensive, differentiated model student financial aid system would be phased in to a fully functioning, sustainable, affordable and regenerative financial aid scheme, drawing on diverse financial sources,” Nzimande said.
However, Nzimande said, in the immediate term, government will develop mechanisms to address, through partnerships, the gaps in funding, particularly of the missing middle and postgraduate funding.
“It is our intention to implement these immediate measures in the 2024 academic year, following consultations with our stakeholders, which include student formations, the South African Union of Students (SAUS), South African Technical and Vocational Education and Training Student Association (SATVETSA), Universities South Africa (USAf), South African College Principals’ Organisation (SACPO), the Chancellors’ Forum (SAUCF), and the trade unions.
“We will further engage other interested parties in this matter, including the Chapter 9 and 10 Institutions, as well as religious formations. Part of the consultations will include international benchmarking of best practices before the final proposal is tabled to Cabinet,” the Minister said.
Student accommodation portal
On student accommodation for NSFAS beneficiaries, Nzimande announced that in 2023 academic year, NSFAS will roll out a student accommodation portal, which will ensure efficiency in areas such as grading and accreditation of accommodation, costs, paying of private accommodation providers, small accommodation providers (“backrooms”) and increased student accommodation capacity.
Nzimande said the NSFAS board and management conducted site visits to universities and TVET colleges across the country to witness first-hand the issues regarding accommodation.
“They identified, among other issues, insufficient beds to accommodate students, both private and institution-owned accommodation not conducive for student accommodation and learning, and private accommodation providers not properly regulated.
“It was evident from those visits that the allocation of student accommodation for NSFAS beneficiaries has to be streamlined and centralised,” the Minister explained.
He said the process to increase the capacity of accreditation providers is underway.
Over 6 000 TVET graduates employed
Meanwhile, Nzimande announced that 6 779 graduates have now been placed in workplaces.
This is in line with the department’s commitment to place 10 000 unemployed Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college graduates in workplaces from April 2022.
Nzimande said he will be meeting with all the Chairpersons and CEOs of Skills Education Training Authorities (SETAs) and the National Skills Fund (NSF) to ensure that they meet the target, as announced by President Ramaphosa.
“I, however, still want to call upon the industry to open their work spaces to our TVET students and those who graduate through all our skills institutions,” Nzimande said.