In the midst of the crisis on our university campuses, with students calling for free education, a bizarre fact has come to light regarding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Yesterday, during a joint briefing to the Portfolio Committee and the Select Committee on Higher Education and Training, the Department admitted that the NSFAS failed to assist 32 352 eligible students who were budgeted for in the 2015/2016 budget.
“We were shocked by this revelation,” said IFP spokesperson on Higher Education, the Hon. Mr Mtomuhle Khawula MP, “Students across our country are struggling to scrape together the finances to study, and the NSFAS is supposed to be one of the solutions. The Department’s annual report shows that the NSFAS was supposed to assist 205 000 students in the past financial year. That was budgeted for. But only 172 648 students were actually assisted. Why?”
The NSFAS has asked for an extra R1.5 billion to assist the students it failed, and while Treasury has approved this additional funding, it has not yet been used. The IFP believes that the Department owes an explanation to all students.
Said Khawula, “We have called for a national debate that takes all the facts into account so that collectively we can design an economic framework that enables the promise of free education to become a reality. One of these facts is that the NSFAS is not working. That has to be spoken about, and fixed.”
The IFP calls on the Department to investigate what went wrong and to provide a full explanation. Statements by the Minister that the NSFAS has assisted all struggling students are clearly inaccurate.
The Hon. Mr M Khawula MP
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