Naledi Pandor confident of smooth start to 2019 academic year
The minister acknowledges that TVET colleges need to improve the quality of the education they provided
Higher education minister Naledi Pandor is confident of a smooth start to the 2019 academic year, thanks to significant improvements in the administration of student funding, she told parliament on Wednesday.
Universities have regularly confronted student protests at the start of the academic year in the past, due to registration issues and problems with student allowances.
Fielding questions from MPs in the national assembly, Pandor said she was not expecting the usual last-minute rush in funding applications, thanks to improvements at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and a concerted drive to get school leavers to apply for funding in 2018. Pandor placed NSFAS, which got a qualified audit for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, under administration in August.
“We are not anticipating the rush between February and April that we have previously had, which gave rise to system failures,” she said.
NSFAS said on Tuesday that it had received 262,658 applications for funding since it opened applications for the 2019 academic year on September 1, and had so far evaluated more than 150,000 of them. The deadline for application is the end of November.
Pandor said universities had a limited capacity to absorb students, set out in their five-year enrolment plans. Ideally more school leavers should choose to study at Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges.
“I am concerned about the need to expand the system, but we should do so with care, both with regards to institutions and with regard to where SA needs to grow its skills base,” she said.
She acknowledged that TVET colleges needed to improve the quality of the education they provided, saying many young people saw them as a “cul de sac”.
Research published in 2015 by the Swiss-SA Co-operation Initiative found grade 12 leavers were just as likely to get a job as TVET college graduates with a three-year National Certificate Vocational course qualification without work experience.
Pandor said SA was not producing enough artisans to meet industry’s needs. “For example, we still tend to think of artisans in terms of traditional trades and don’t look sufficiently at new opportunities in ICT. ,” she said.
The National Development Plan says SA should be producing at least 30,000 artisans a year by 2030, she said.
The DA’s shadow minister on higher education and training Belinda Bozzoli said information provided to her by industry suggested SA needed to produce 60,000 artisans a year.