Government will respond directly to students’ concerns

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma says the policies of the current administration will respond directly to the concerns placed firmly on the table by students.

“Firstly, the students have expressed concern that the NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] threshold of R122 000 is too low. We will have to look into this matter with the view to raising the threshold on a phased basis in the period ahead.

“Secondly, the students have pointed out that the full cost of study at some universities is higher than the subsidy that NSFAS provides. As a result, NSFAS students who study at some universities that charge higher fees end up accumulating debt.

“Our government-initiated processes are already looking at this issue too,” President Zuma said.

Delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday, President Zuma said in December 2015 university students voiced their concerns about the cost of higher education.

“They correctly pointed out that accumulated debt and fast rising fees were making it harder and harder for those who come from less-privileged households to enter and stay within the education system until they complete their studies.

“It is for this reason that when university students expressed genuine concerns about  being excluded from universities, our caring government responded appropriately by taking over the responsibility to pay the fee increase for the 2016 academic year,” President Zuma said.

Government has also settled all debt owed by NSFAS students and extended the coverage to larger numbers of students than ever before.

At the time of tabling the 2016 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, government announced additional measures aimed at making higher education accessible to more students from working class families.

Government has further provided funds to ensure that no student whose combined family income is up to R600 000 per annum, will face fee increases at universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges for 2017.

All students who qualify for NSFAS and who have been accepted by universities and TVET colleges will be funded. 

The President said that the university debt of NSFAS qualifying students for 2013, 2014 and 2015 academic years has been addressed.

R32m to support higher education

“In total, government has reprioritised R32 million within government baselines to support higher education. We are ensuring that our deserving students can study without fearing that past debts will prevent them from finishing their studies,” said the President.

Meanwhile, President Zuma said students and their parents should understand that the needs for services like water, sanitation, early childhood development and good public transport have to also be addressed, alongside access to quality higher education and training.

“But our commitment to finding sustainable solutions to the funding of the social wage in general, and education, in particular, is unwavering. As the processes that we have set in motion draw to a close, such as the Heher Commission, the Ministerial Task Team, broader engagements with students, university and TVETS leadership and civil society, we will find resources to give expression to our policies.”

He invited all stakeholders to participate in the processes that are underway so that no view is not heard.

“No great idea should be excluded. As soon as the broadest sections of our society agree on what to do, our government will take steps to reprioritise resources to implement it on a phased basis.

“Let us engage to identify the most pressing needs, and allocate our limited resources accordingly. Let us build our self-reliance and move forward in the spirit of unity.” – SAnews.gov.za

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