Aspirations: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says she is grateful for the partnership between her department and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA
Aspirations: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says she is grateful for the partnership between her department and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. Picture: SIYABULELA DUDA

Students from poor families have received a boost after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced on Tuesday that academically deserving social grant recipients will automatically be eligible for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

The multibillion-rand government higher education funding scheme has teamed up with the Department of Social Development to provide more support to students who receive social grants.

Dlamini said in December that matriculants who received a social grant and who were accepted at an institution of higher learning would no longer go through a means test to qualify for financial aid from NSFAS.

Dlamini said on Tuesday that of more than 188,000 grant beneficiaries who wrote matric exams in 2016, about 83% qualified to attend either university or a college.

Students receiving social grants "should automatically qualify for funding to further their studies ... the removal of the means test for financial eligibility on social grant beneficiaries means there should be no hindrance in them pursuing their chosen careers", said Dlamini.

According to figures from the departments of social development and basic education, 188,687 grant recipients sat for the 2016 matric exams. Of these, 173,085 were recipients of child support grants, 14,926 of foster child grants and 676 of care dependency grants.

Dlamini said: "We are grateful for the existing partnership between the Department of Social Development and NSFAS … it will advance the hopes and aspirations of the poor and vulnerable children in the country."

On Monday, the NSFAS reopened applications for 2017, which will remain open until January 20 for those who will be studying at a university. Applications can be made until February 14 for those who will be studying at a technical and vocational education and training college.

The NSFAS has revamped its systems to allow students to apply for funding directly to the scheme and not through tertiary institutions, as had been the case in the past.

From 2017, students will also not be required to reapply for financial aid every year. They need apply only once to be funded for the duration of their studies. Under the new model, students will communicate with the NSFAS directly and not through the financial offices of the universities and colleges that they attend.

The scheme has been rocked by inefficiencies and allegations of corruption in recent times.

Some observers suggest that corruption at NSFAS, which had seen disadvantaged youths missing out on higher education, was a factor that sparked the #FeesMustFall protests.

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