Naledi Pandor. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Naledi Pandor. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The government and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will be working to minimise disruption from last minute “walk-in” applications for places at Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges in 2019, says higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor.

“We will be far more proactive than we might have been in the past,” said Pandor, who took charge of the portfolio in February, when President Cyril Ramaphosa reshuffled cabinet.

Her predecessor Blade Nzimande was moved to transport.

“We will maintain a strong presence both of ... DHET [the department] and NSFAS on college campuses where we think help may be required. At the beginning of the year we will meet with TVET college principals as well as the new student leadership to brief them on how they may assist, to ensure we don’t have long queues and clashes in those queues,” she said.

Higher education institutions discourage walk-ins because they pose safety and security problems. The mother of a prospective student was killed in a stampede at the University of Johannesburg in 2012 as parents and aspirant students waited to make late applications.

NSFAS only disburses funding after students are registered at a university or TVET college. 

NSFAS warned last week that there had been so few funding applications from aspirant TVET college students that it expected about 200,000 prospective students to attempt walk-in registration at the start of the 2019 academic year. At that stage only 10% of its funding applications were from students hoping to study at a TVET college.

NSFAS administrator Randall Carolissen said there had been a last-minute surge in applications from students aiming for TVET colleges over the weekend, which would alleviate some of the pressure facing the sector in January.

When the extended application period closed at midnight on Sunday, the proportion of those received for TVET college courses had risen to 24%, he said. NSFAS originally set November 30 as the deadline for applications for the 2019 academic year, but then extended the deadline by two days.

Pandor said the application process for 2019 had gone smoothly, and she did not anticipate the kinds of delays in disbursing NSFAS funds to students that had plagued the past two years. NSFAS had received more than 400,000 applications for the 2019 academic year.

“NSFAS will communicate to students who meet the financial eligibility criteria and have received an academic offer via SMS or e-mail at the beginning of January, once academic results have been made available to NSFAS,” she said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za