Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande says government
is not in a financial position to support tertiary institutions to clear
Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande says government is not in a financial position to support tertiary institutions to clear student debts.
Nzimande responded to the 15 demands submitted by the South African Union of Students (SAUS), one of which is the clearance of historical debts for all students to be able to register.
Nzimande says government is not blind to the struggles of students.
“The Department of Higher Education and Training is not in a financial position to be able to support institutions to clear all student debt of fee-paying students. We are aware that there are many students whose families struggle to keep up with fee payments, and indeed many families who have also been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Nzimande said in a statement on Monday.
“However, given the difficult fiscal situation, all government departments, including the Department of Higher Education and Training have been subject to budget reductions in 2020 and 2021.
“I am aware that many institutions are doing what they can to assist students in need, and to allow them to make payment arrangements to be able to register, where this is possible. However, institutions also have to remain financially sustainable in order to continue to operate effectively, and financial decisions are made at the level of university councils.”
Nzimande said NSFAS-qualifying students with historic debt are able to register when they sign an Acknowledgement of Debt form, while the process is underway.
NSFAS has also placed a first order for laptops.
“These will be made available to students, in line with the agreed processes, as soon as they are available. NSFAS has indicated that the first deliveries will be made in April 2021.”
Nzimande acknowledged that the demand for student funding is significant.
“Government has committed to providing fully subsidized support to students from poor and working-class backgrounds and has been doing so since 2018 through the NSFAS. As already indicated, the Department of Higher Education and Training will be doing urgent work to review the current funding policy of government, to examine its overall affordability and sustainability.
“This will also entail examining the funding requirements to support missing middle and postgraduate students.”
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