Statement by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training Mr Marius Fransman on the visit to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) offices by the Portfolio Committees on Education
10 Jul 2009
The Portfolio Committees on Basic Education and Higher Education and Training visited the National Student Financial Aid Scheme's (NSFAS) Cape Town Offices this week.
Although the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education has pre-planned oversight visits to all the non-statutory bodies, the NSFAS visit had to be prioritised given the challenges that were highlighted during a Committee meeting. These challenges included unspent money.
At the core of the challenges, was the misalignment between NSFAS, universities and further education and training colleges. This misalignment throws needy students into serious disarray.
The committees were particularly disturbed by news of more than R40 million that was returned to NSFAS by Colleges and Universities as unspent money in 2008. Money given to institutions should be fully spent. This does not make sense to have money returned yet there are still student loitering around because they could not get funding for their studies.
The committees also call on NSFAS to strengthen and streamline its financial allocation criteria to ensure that the historically disadvantaged students get access to education. This call is informed by the fact that education tops government's programmes, and a need to see cutting edge education system in the country.
It is also the Committees' view that Universities and Colleges must do their bit in ensuring access to their campuses. To this effect, we want these institutions to adopt a uniform approach to the Means Test when considering students for financial aid.
We also picked up that the existence of NSFAS is not known by rural communities, and to this, the Committees have advised NSFAS to use all the country's high schools as contact centres. These schools will help market its programmes and students will not get to know about NSFAS only when they go to tertiary institutions.
The Committees suggested to NSFAS to forge strong partnerships with other education role-players, including the Parliamentary Committees on Education, to ensure efficiency. The Committees have also welcomed the establishment of the Review Committee on NSFAS by the Minister on Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande.
NSFAS' Chief Executive Officer, Mr Pragasan Naicker, told the Committees that University and College-based NSFAS offices lacked the capacity to spread the message of possible assistance to the target market.
The committees are soon going to meet student bodies and the Council on Higher Education to hear their perspectives about NSFAS. And will also meet NSFAS again in August.
Mr Marius Fransman
Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training Chairperson
Cell: 082 907 7300
Source: Parliament of South Africa (http://www.parliament.gov.za)
Issued by: Parliament of South Africa
10 Jul 2009
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