The Department of Higher Education’s Deputy Director-General, Thandi Lewin, says first–year and continuing students, who have already qualified for NSFAS funding, are now able to register at tertiary institutions.
This as students across the country plan to continue protesting against financial exclusion in the 2021 academic year.
Lewin says all students, who qualify for NSFAS by meeting the academic and financial eligibility criteria, will be funded.
“The students that are already in the system, that come back to university and meet the academic criteria, those students have been able to register. What we are not sure about is the proportion of first-year students that will qualify and that is the information we will now be getting as first–year students are being able to register. We have to reprioritise funds from within the department’s budget. But all students who qualify for NSFAS, meet the financial eligibility criteria, they will end up registering at a public university or TVET college and will be funded.”
Plight of disadvantaged students
The protests by Wits University students have once again highlighted the exclusion of many students from NSFAS. Students flock to Wits from different provinces to further their studies but those from poor backgrounds with no funding are highly disadvantaged.
One such student is 18-year-old Matshidiso Nchupetsang from the North West capital Mahikeng.
Nchupetsang, who has been admitted as a first-year Mining Engineering student, says his future looks bleak as he has no bursary nor a student loan.
He is now in limbo with no clear indication regarding his NSFAS application.
“I don’t have funding as yet to fund my tuition fees as I am still waiting for NSFAS to respond to me. I live in an accredited accommodation. I have not paid rent as yet because I am still waiting for NSFAS. I am concerned about what should happen if NFSAS does not get back to me as I have unpaid rent. So, I am concerned cause I will have to pack my bags and go back home.”
It has been an eventful week in the streets of Johannesburg, with students taking their grievances to the streets against what they call the financial exclusion of poor students.
There is still hope for Nchupetsang after the government announced additional funding for NSFAS to address the funding shortfall for the 2021 academic year. -Additional reporting by Bafedile Moerane