Sizwe Nxasana. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Sizwe Nxasana. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

President Jacob Zuma’s decision to offer free education to first-year students in 2018 should be welcomed if the country can afford it‚ the chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) said on Monday.

"The decision has to be welcomed‚ assuming that the country can afford to do all of that‚" Nsfas chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said on Talk Radio 702.

On Saturday, Zuma announced that free higher education for poor and working-class students would be introduced for first-year students in 2018 and fully phased in over five years.

He revised the definition of poor and working-class students to "currently enrolled TVET (technical and vocational education and training) college or university students from South African households with a combined annual income of up to R350‚000".

Nxasana said the government would need to work with the private sector and "give them not just funding but also make sure we are producing the kind of skills the country desperately needs to grow our economy".

He said Nsfas would continue to administer financial aid.