The government will reprioritise the Department of Higher Education’s annual budget to cover the shortfall experienced by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
This was announced on Thursday by Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande at a media briefing on Cabinet resolutions following its meeting on Wednesday.
Nzimande said that funding for deserving first-year students would be made available.
Earlier this week he had announced NSFAS was experiencing a funding shortfall.
“The budget has been moved from just under R36 billion last year to R42.1 billion this year,” said Nzimande.
Asked about why the government had to wait until now to address the shortfall, Nzimande said the department started engaging the government about the shortfall late last year.
“We have been aware of the shortfall and we have been engaging the government about the shortfall.
“It was only after the end of the academic year that we were able to monitor the full scale of the nature and amount of the shortfall and establish it is R6 billion.”
“We did not start addressing the problem now, we started as early as towards the end of last year. The reason why it has taken us until now is the academic year finished late,” Nzimande said.
He said the financial shortfall was caused by the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s dire economic outlook.
These challenges delayed the finalisation of the registration of first-year university students.
Acting Minister in Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshaveheni told journalists the Cabinet had agreed to allocate additional funding to the scheme.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of the scheme. Some of these are the extended academic year and a growing number of students qualifying for the fund due to parents having lost their jobs,’ said Ntshavheni.
“The Cabinet has directed that further work must be done to find a more sustainable approach to fund students for their tertiary education. The Cabinet remains committed to ensuring all deserving students are not excluded due to the lack of money.”