Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor has emphasised that meeting academic and progression requirements is still key in getting a bursary under the new scheme administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
The Minister on Tuesday responded to questions put for oral reply from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).
The bursary scheme is implemented by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and seeks to widen access for deserving students.
In December 2017, the former President announced free higher education for students from poor and working class families earning below R350 000 per annum.
“The scheme will be phased in over a five-year period, starting in the 2018 academic year with first-time entry university students only. By the end of the five-year phase-in period, all undergraduate university students eligible (in line with the new threshold) in all years of study will be funded.
“All students on the scheme will sign bursary agreements that include various conditions and commitments. The phase-in is in line with both affordability and the enrolment plans that have been approved and negotiated based on available funding for the system, infrastructure and staffing capacity of institutions,” Minister Pandor explained.
She said as the new scheme is phased-in, continuing students — funded under the criteria of the former DHET Loan Scheme — will be phased-out.
“These students’ funding will be provided as a grant from 2018 until they complete their qualifications, without any specific conditions attached to receiving these grants other than meeting the academic progression requirements,” the Minister said.
She warned that the differences between first-time entry university student funding through the DHET Bursary Scheme and the continuing students’ NSFAS grant has the potential to cause some dissatisfaction, which must be managed at all levels of the system.
Minister Pandor said given the short turnaround time between the President’s announcement of the new bursary scheme in December 2017 and its implementation in the 2018 academic year, the finalisation of the finer details of the conditions to be placed on recipients of the new bursary is still to be done over the next few months through the development of a new policy on student funding.
This, the Minister said, will be thoroughly consulted on.
However, she said some initial conditions have been provided, as recipients are expected to meet the academic and progression requirements of the bursary; participate in some service work during their studies and remain in the country following their studies or pay back the bursary if they choose to leave.
Withdrawal of charges against student protests
Meanwhile, Minister Pandor said the department has not requested institutions to withdraw charges against students involved in protest activities that are criminal and/or contravened the code of conduct of respective institutions related to #FeesMustFall protests, as it cannot intervene or interfere in the internal matters of institutions.
“In terms of section 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act No. 51 of 1977, the power to withdraw a charge vests with the National Director of Public Prosecutions or any person conducting a prosecution at the instance of the State or anybody or person conducting a prosecution under section 8.
“A charge may be withdrawn before an accused pleads to a charge, in which event the accused shall not be entitled to a verdict of acquittal in respect of that charge,” Minister Pandor said.
Source – SAnews.gov.za