The Department of Higher Education and Training has to date established a variety of initiatives costing billions of rands to reduce the responsibility of fees from poor parents and students in South Africa.
Student loans and bursaries given by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have already been increased substantially during the last three years and this has contributed significantly in aiding academically deserving and poor students.
“Funding the loans and bursaries has tripled from R2.375 billion in 2008 to R6 billion in 2011. Aside from that, the department has also made available R50 million for post graduate scholarships and R63 million for students with disabilities said,” said Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande.
Replying to a letter of complaints received by the department from the South African Students Congress (SASCO) not too long ago, asking for free education, Nzimande stated he was wholly committed for the introduction of “fee-free” education for the poor growing to be a reality sooner rather than later.
Having said that, he mentioned that SASCO’s discontent with the launch of a Ministerial Working Group on Fee-Free University Education for the poor. He explained the fact that the working group was not replicating the work carried out by the NSFAS Review Committee, as SASCO’s memorandum claims.
“I would argue that the working group be actually allowed to complete its work in order to advise me on the content and scope of a policy framework within which fee free education should be implemented in South Africa,” Nzimande said.
Both SASCO and the department share common concerns pertaining to making improvements to the living and learning environments for students at higher education and training institutions, as well as the escalation fees at the institutions. Methods to address these issues were currently being investigated as an element of the work undertaken by the funding review committee.
Nzimande additionally reminded students that tuition fees charged by higher education institutions happen to be dependent upon individual university councils decisions and not by the ministry.
Nzimande called on SASCO to make submissions on all investigations which are presently underway in relation to Higher Education and Training in the country.