Expanding funding opportunities to Higher Education and Training for the poor: Minister Nzimande Briefs National Council of Provinces (NCOP)
3 Nov 2011On 26 June 1955, a group of extraordinary men and women convened in Kliptown, Johannesburg and adopted the Freedom Charter which became the basis of the Basic Human Rights enshrined in our constitution. The Freedom Charter declared “That the doors of learning and culture shall be opened” and further stated that “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children. Higher education and training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit.”
We have made significant progress in terms of opening the doors of learning through increased access for students from the working class since 1994. However, we still face immense challenges as many students, despite our best efforts, cannot proceed with their studies due to a lack of financial resources, inadequate or poor academic support and their inability to find jobs that would change their economic circumstances.
Critical to the commitment of government to ensure access for all, President Zuma decided to create a dedicated Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), and this is beginning to yield positive results. Our department has built on advances made since 1994, but added further impetus with its own new interventions to ensure both improved access and success in higher education and training, with a specific focus on students from the working class and the poor.
Allow me Chairperson to share with the House some of the interventions we have made since 2009 and some of the plans we have to improve access and success in higher education and training.
We have sought to define our mandate as that of expanding post-school education and training in order to emphasise the fact that we have to respond to the education and training needs of all those who have left school and are unlikely to return, whether they have matric or not. This mandate allows us to better respond to the various needs of youth and adults who are out of school.
The Department of Higher Education and Training has received R37, 4 billion of which R9,1 billion are levies for Sector Education and Training Authorities and the National Skills Fund. R4 billion was allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
With regards to further improving access for poor students at universities, as from the beginning of this year, all final year students who qualify for the (NSFAS) have received loans equivalent to the full cost of study (tuition, accommodation, food, books), which, if they successfully complete their studies, this loan will be converted into a full bursary.
Again, all FET college students, who are pursuing the NC (V) or Nated programmes and qualify for NSFAS, they, as from this year, been completed exempted from paying fees. This is indeed the first of its kind in our country.
In addition to the above the DHET has also set aside a special bursary fund of about R77 million, dedicated to supporting students with disabilities at universities and to cover their full cost of study.
The DHET has also set aside an amount of R200 million to assist all those students who have successfully completed their university diplomas and degrees, but have not received their certificates or graduated since they owe money to universities.
This money will be a loan that will cover all such students between 2000 and 2010, and is estimated to benefit about 25 000 students according to the records we have been given by the universities. We are however concerned about the slow uptake of this offer, so honourable Members must please help by also spreading the word in this regard.
NSFAS funding has increased the highest in any one year, with a 27, 8% increase between the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years. During this period we have also tripled the allocation of full bursary support for FET colleges from R318 million to R1,235 billion.
Chairperson and Honourable Members, I am also pleased to also inform you that the NSFAS has gotten an unqualified audit for this financial year after the many interventions we made to improve its financial administration and governance. The fund is now in a healthy state to continue to assist poor students.
I have further instructed NSFAS to explore options and possibilities of giving financial assistance for those students whose family income is above the NSFAS threshold, yet whose families are poor.
The NSFAS Annual Report for 2010/11 showcased various students from these poor communities. Student, Lesego Shoromoma, who is a graduate from the North-West University and comes from a poor family in Orkney, North-West
“NSFAS provided me with funding for tuition fees, accommodation and text books that I would not have acquired on my own due to my family’s situation.”
Interventions to improve quality
Chairperson and Honourable Members, you will agree with me that money alone will not solve all our problems. With regards to universities, the DHET continues to provide earmarked funds for academic support particularly targeted at students who require such assistance.
In addition we are restructuring our own budget in order to give additional funds to historically disadvantaged institutions to address the many infrastructure backlogs in these institutions. We are also exploring setting up a dedicated financial assistance programme for lecturers in Historically Disadvantaged Institutions (HDIs) to improve their qualifications, so that we significantly increase the number of PHDs teaching in these institutions.
The DHET also has earmarked teaching development grants for the 2012/13 financial year to the tune of R499 million to improve the quality of learning and teaching, especially in HDIs. Over the next two we will be allocating to HDIs R600 million for student housing and R900 million for infrastructure backlogs. We are also having discussions with Treasury to explore additional avenues to address infrastructure for the entire post-school education and training landscape.
We have also embarked on an extensive ‘change strategy’ to improve quality in our FET Colleges. Particular attention is being paid to improvement of governance, financial management, curriculum and programme mix so that these institutions offer relevant programmes that will improve both the pass rates as well as employability of FET college graduates.
We have developed the Student Support Services (SSS) Framework, which is intended to provide entry, on-course and exit support for learners in FET Colleges.
Earlier this year government, labour, business and community representatives at National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) have signed a National Skill Accord as part of significantly increasing training and skills development, especially for the youth.
In this Accord, employers, including State Owned Enterprises, have agreed to open their workplace for FET college lecturers to be exposed to current technologies in industry today, so that the knowledge they impart to student is relevant to current employer needs.
Indeed our biggest challenge still remains the low throughput rate in both our universities and colleges. Whilst the above interventions will go a long way towards addressing this, it is also important that we undertake a campaign to encourage our students to work hard so that their performance improves.
Improved access without improvement in success rates is not going to make a difference in the provision of better education and training. It is for this reason that the Department has also set aside R194 million for foundation programmes designed to support and develop underprepared students.
Another related but distinct matter that we are addressing is that of closer relationship and articulation between FET college qualifications and universities. I have asked all the quality councils to look into this matter, as a matter of extreme urgency so that there progression between FET colleges and universities for those students who are want to do so.
Transition from school/college/ university to work
One of the critical dimensions of post-school education and training is to strengthen work-integrated learning. The National Skills Accord further commits employers to identify training capacity beyond their needs in order to place apprenticeships and other learnerships in their workplaces. The partners have agreed that such trainees will not be guaranteed employment just as they will not be used as substitute for permanent workers.
Chairperson and Honourable Members, I am pleased to announce that as at 30 September 2011, working with the SETAs, various employers have already registered 11 335 learnerships and apprenticeships against a target 30 000 placements. Specifically in regard to artisans, 8 102 apprentices this year alone have been certified as full artisans against this financial year’s target of 15 000.
At this rate we are convinced that we will meet this target, thus exceeding the target set by the President for 2014 already!
We have also set the SETAs the task of working closely with FET colleges and Universities of Technology in order facilitate student placement.
Fighting corruption in the system
Underpinning all our work is a strategy we are developing to combat corruption in the entire public education and training system, in order to ensure that every cent meant for the education of our people is used only, and only for that.
Chairperson and Honourable Members, all these are meant to ensure that we build an accessible, quality post-school education and training system with a particular focus on our youth.
I thank you!
Issued by: Department of Higher Education and Training
3 Nov 2011
[ Top ]