Students to benefit from transformed NSFAS

Monday, October 10, 2011
Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg - The Higher Education and Training Department and National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) board have recommitted to ensuring full compliance with all legislative and regulatory requirements in order to receive clean audits in future.

NSFAS has received an unqualified audit from the Auditor General following a turnaround strategy implemented after it received an audit disclaimer last year.

Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said the department and NSFAS board were jointly committed to achieving the rest of its turnaround goals, which include increasing the amount available for both loans and bursaries, and improving the way NSFAS communicates its message to learners. This will help learners to become aware of the financial assistance that is available to them long before they leave school.

The list of goals also includes widening the definition of students who are eligible for student financial aid, streamlining the application processes so that money reaches students quickly and easily and introducing modern systems to manage the billions of rands that NSFAS distributes.

The scheme also hopes to crack down on fraud and corruption at institutions to ensure that financial aid reaches the students it is intended for; and significantly reducing the number of NSFAS students who either fail or drop out by developing programmes in collaboration with institutions and stakeholders to give students the best chance of graduating.

"My department and NSFAS are in the process of introducing the far-reaching changes at NSFAS which will see it achieve these goals over the next three years," Nzimande said on Monday.

Since the inception of NSFAS in 1999, funds allocated to NSFAS have increased substantially from R441 million in 1999 to R5.5 billion in 2011/2012, providing financial aid to 210 000 students in 2010.

According to the minister, the plan is to grow this figure so as to realise the goal of progressively providing free education for students from poor families as mandated by government.

"Part of our long term plan is to move to a student-centric model to ensure the money follows the students," he said, adding that NSFAS will be undertaking periodic audits to ensure that funds allocated to all institutions are utilised accordingly.

NSFAS Chairperson Zamayedwa Sogayise said the board was committed to putting in place the policies, strategies, operational plans and leadership that will transform NSFAS into a model public entity, capable of delivering financial aid to students who will go on to fulfil their educational goals and contribute to the development of South Africa.

"The board has made significant progress in achieving its turnaround objectives while establishing and maintaining current operations," said Sogayise, adding that the board expects to be able to report improved performance in all areas of operation in the next year.

The scheme currently reaches students at 23 universities and 50 Further Education Training colleges nationwide.

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