Over 7 000 military vets, dependants given educational support

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Department of Military Veterans has provided education support to over 7 000 military veterans and their dependants in 2017. 

Mbulelo Musi, the department’s spokesperson, said this on Wednesday when he briefed the media in Hatfield on the progress made in supporting military veterans.

The programme is one of the most critical benefits that the department provides, with the view to change the lives of military veterans and their beneficiaries for the better. 

“During the 2017 academic year, the [department] provided education support to 7 712 military veterans and beneficiaries,” Musi said. 

Of those supported, 4 966 were given support for basic education and 2 746 for tertiary studies. 

“The department has to date paid R177.5 million for the 2017 academic year - R115 million for [higher education and training] and R62 million for basic education,” Musi said. 

As part of the programme, the department has been assisting military veterans and their dependants since 2013. In its first intake, the department supported 200 students for both basic and higher education. 

Need for increased budget to keep military vets in class 

This figure has changed over the years and Musi said with the rising demand for the programme, the department now needs an increased budget to accommodate a spike in applications. 

He said while the department had planned to support 4 500 military veterans and their dependants in the 2017/18 financial year, it has to date supported 7 712 beneficiaries. 

“These numbers have increased considerably compared to the department’s forecasting due to the changing socio-economic conditions of military veterans and the increased awareness amongst military veterans about the benefit. 

“The department has received 9 645 new applications for the 2018 academic year, a total for both new and continuing [4 873 higher education and training and 4 772 for basic education].

“Of the 9 645 applications received, 4 054 are new applications … [and] 5 591 are continuing from 2017,” Musi said.

The number is expected to rise to 11 600 this year. As a result, he said the department will need approximately R489 million in order to assist the projected number of applications for the 2018 academic year. 

“For the 2018/19 financial year, the department has allocated R155 million for the education support benefit.

“This means that the department will need for R334 million to disburse the education support benefit for 11 600 students. 

“In order for the department to carry over the current 7 606 beneficiaries, an amount of R288.5 million is needed and therefore a deficit of R133.5 million from the current budget allocation [will occur].” 

Musi said the department was aware that there were glitches in payments in the previous academic year. He said this was being addressed and that they took full responsibility for the defaulted payments. 

He called on all the affected institutions to treat the payment defaulting students considerately. 

“Over and above the financial constraints, the department has received budget cuts [from] National Treasury of 5% for the coming financial year.

“This reduces the pre-allocated budgets to R627 million from the initial allocated R660 million.” 

Musi said the department was hopeful that the announcement of free higher education to students coming from poor households would assist in reducing the current constraints on the education support programme. 

The department is engaging National Treasury to find a sustainable funding solution for education support. – SAnews.gov.za

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