Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, says that the government has significantly increased its spending on free university education over the last year.
In a statement on Monday (19 April), Nzimande said that this is primarily due to the increase in the number of students and an increased budget allocation by the government to fund the children of the poor and the working class through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
“This is in line with government’s commitment to fund university and TVET college students from poor and working-class background to attain at least the first undergraduate qualification or a TVET college qualification.
“Our government is meeting these policy commitments for each year in recent years,” he said.
The minister said NSFAS funding increased more than five-fold only in six years, from R5.9 billion in 2014 to R34.7 billion in 2020.
In the current financial year NSFAS funding is expected to reach over R43 billion, a further increase of close to R10 billion in just two years from 2020.
“From 2018 NSFAS has been funding its recipients for tuition, accommodation, meals, learning material allowances, daily allowance and, in some cases, a transport allowance.
“In addition, government policy (N+1) allows all NSFAS students an extra year within which to complete their certificates, diplomas or degrees, taking into account and catering for the fact that most of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“Other than Cuba, we are not aware of any country in the world that provides such comprehensive higher education support for poor students. And all this is a free bursary that does not have to be paid back anymore since 2018,” said Nzimande.
Nzimande said that in 2017, NSFAS introduced and implemented a new funding system for all universities, termed the ‘student-centred’ model.