Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has appealed for calm at all of the country’s universities saying NSFAS student funding is on track for deserving students.

Nzimande was addressing the media following a cabinet meeting during which students’ grievances regarding the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and burgeoning student debt was discussed. The cabinet meeting came after violent student protests led to the killing of a man outside Wits University on Wednesday.

Nzimande said the government was “committed to ensuring that deserving students are supported through higher education”. 

“Our sincere condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased. I have directed that the Wits University Council, the Wits Management and requested the relevant Law enforcement authorities agencies to provide us with an explanation on what caused this tragedy, and to take whatever steps to ensure justice is done and appropriate responsibility is accorded,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande said cabinet had discussed NSFAS’s 2021 funding shortfall and the subsequent delay in communicating funding decisions to first time students entering public universities. 

“Cabinet agreed that funding should be reprioritised from the budget of the Department of Higher Education and Training in order to ensure that all deserving NSFAS-qualifying students are able to receive funding support for the 2021 academic year,” he said.

He said further reprioritisation could only be considered as part of the Medium Term Budget process later this year. 

“This decision has been taken in the context of funding cuts and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following this decision, NSFAS will be able to release funding decisions, and the registration process at public universities can continue as planned,” Nzimande said. 

“No NSFAS-qualifying students have been affected by these delays, as universities had agreed to extend the registration period to ensure that students without funding decisions would not be prevented from accessing a place that they qualify for,” he said.

He said registration had been extended until March 19.

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Presh JM Reporter

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