Higher Education and Training wishes class of 2016 well

Statement to the class of 2016

November is exam season in South Africa. Throughout the length and breadth of our country students at universities, Technical Vocational and Training (TVET) Colleges and at high school are writing their final exams.

I wish to take this opportunity to wish all those writing exams in all our education institutions well.

For those in universities and at TVET Colleges, final exams may represent the last hurdle before graduation, or moving on to the next year of study. While for learners in matric they represent the finalisation of an arduous schooling journey.

Many of these students and learners will also have one eye on funding to further their studies either in the form of loans, bursaries or National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The importance of funding for higher education cannot be overemphasized, for without it many promising students would never have an opportunity to study and fulfil their dreams.

It is therefore concerning that NSFAS has noted a major decline in matric applicants for funding in 2017. Government calls on learners in matric to apply for NSFAS funding without delay as applications close at the end of November.

It should also be noted that applications remain open for students who are currently studying at universities and TVET colleges, who are not funded by NSFAS, as well as students who were previously funded by NSFAS but were not funded in 2016.

Since its inception NSFAS has been a crucial vehicle that provides funding to financially needy students. It has helped to expand access to education, particularly to financially needy students, and has funded over 1.7 million students since 1994. The scheme currently supports approximately 480 000 financially needy undergraduate students to access university and TVET colleges.

When viewed against a total higher education population of just under a million as expressed in Stats SA's financial statistics of higher education institutions for 2015, it is clear that NSFAS provides support to a sizeable number of students.

Government is certain that this proud tradition will continue in 2017, especially as Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan allocated an additional R9.2 billion to NSFAS during his Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement. With this additional funding thousands of students will be provided with the financial means to access education at all 26 public universities and 50 public TVET colleges.

We therefore appeal to matric learners who have not yet applied for funding to do so as a matter of urgency. The process is easy and can be completed online or manually, via post, fax and email.

NSFAS Executive Officer Msulwa Daca recently said that more than 195 668 students have managed to visit the NSFAS website to register and create the "myNSFAS account" on the website. He however cautioned that most applications were from university students.

Getting matric learners to apply who have not yet done so should be a national priority. Our nation cannot afford to lose out on thousands of talented matric learners who in time can go on to become the doctors, engineers, technicians and others that we need to move South Africa forward.

It is our duty as concerned parents, guardians, aunts and uncles, and society at large to ensure that the Class of 2016 moves on to institutions of higher learning. This must further go hand in hand with the successful completion of the 2016 higher education academic year.

While the bulk of those who have applied have done so online there have also been many manual applications. This is to be expected as many learners come from rural areas and may not have access to connectivity.

Government is pleased to note that the National Youth Development Agency has agreed to assist NSFAS by availing the printed forms at all their community youth development centres in rural and township areas.

NSFAS is also working with the Department of Social Development through Isibindi Centres to distribute manual application forms at 263 community centres throughout the country. Agents at these centres will assist people in completing either the online or manual application forms. Forms are also available at more than 300 campuses of universities and TVET colleges.

We are pleased to note that the private sector is helping NSFAS to broaden its reach. NSFAS has joined forces with Vodacom who have made available their 81 ICT community centres around the country to assist learners with online applications. The 81 Vodacom centres are connected with necessary internet resources and learners wishing to apply for NSFAS will be granted free access.

We are hopeful that these additional interventions will get the ball rolling. All that now remains is for first time students from the Class of 2016 to apply and make their dreams for a better life a reality.

Source: Government of South Africa.

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