The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) will continue to fund students while the 2020 academic year is under way, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said in a briefing on Thursday.
“Funding for all students will continue while the academic year is under way, even during the lockdown,” he added.
Nzimande was joined by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to outline how the level 4 lockdown – which is scheduled to commence on Friday – will affect the sector.
This after President Cyril Ramaphosa previously announced a risk-adjusted strategy through five levels of lockdown in a bid to re-open the economy and manage the spread of Covid-19.
Nzimande said due to the likely extension of the academic year because of the global pandemic, the Nsfas would require more funding.
“The likely extension of the academic year will require additional funding to maintain allowances for students while they complete the academic year.
“As a department, we are therefore working with the Nsfas in modelling these costs,” he added.
Nzimande urged students, who have not yet used their allowances, to redirect those funds towards devices to support learning.
“Given the fact that all our universities have already disbursed learning material allowances to their Nsfas-supported students, I would like to urge our students who have not as yet utilised their allowances to use them to purchase appropriate electronic learning devices to support their learning during this time.”
He said the 2020 academic year would be re-organised to enable institutions and students to complete their academic requirements, adding it would likely be extended into early 2021 depending on the impact of Covid-19.
“The completion of the academic year 2020 and the start of academic year 2021 will be aligned with the plans of the Department of Basic Education in terms of the completion cycle of National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, and the release of NSC results.”
Due to uncertainty and the global pandemic, Nzimande could not confirm the physical return of students to various learning institutions across the country.
“As a result of high uncertainty and the fluid social context imposed by the viral threat on every aspect of South African society, it is not possible to determine with any measure of certainty the dates when a physical return to campuses for the bulk of our students will be possible.
“Until we reach that point, every effort is now being made to put in place multiple and flexible methods of teaching and learning to support all our institutions and all our students,” he said.