Stabilising the business processes of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would be a key government priority in 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his state of the national address (Sona) on Thursday night. Some of SA’s higher education institutions recently came to a standstill as students protested over funding delays by NSFAS and slow registration processes. NSFAS has been struggling to ensure the smooth roll-out of free higher education. Many students have complained about delayed payments‚ which also sparked protests at various tertiary institutions in 2018.

The crisis at NSFAS is in large part because of the poorly planned introduction of free higher education, made in a surprise move in 2017 when former president Jacob Zuma effectively over-ruled the Heher Commission report into the feasibility of free higher education, and announced that the government would subsidise free higher education for poor and working-class students. This meant NSFAS had a f...

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