The Minister of Higher Education has announced a new financial intervention in tertiary education. 

The South African Department Of Higher Education and Training (DHET), has made an additional R7.166 billion available to fund students from underprivileged homes. The new bursary scheme will allow the the DHET to fund 458 875 students starting in the middle of this year.

The announcement of the new scheme was made jointly by higher education minister, Naledi Pandor, and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) at a press briefing in Cape Town yesterday, April 24.

Pandor said, “It is our duty to support the poor and those from the most vulnerable families.” Pandor said that the department of higher education and training (DHET) bursary scheme is currently being phased in. “Starting with first time entry students from South African families with a gross combined annual income of up to R350 000. Each year, a new cohort will benefit from this scheme.” The new scheme is different to a conventional NSFAS loan as recipients of the former will not be required to pay back the grant.

NSFAS chairperson, Sizwe Nxasana, said that while the model of the bursary scheme is sustainable, the country cannot expect the government to completely fund free higher education on its own.
“The involvement of non-profit organisations and the involvement of the private sector continues to be important,” Nxasana continued.

He added that students receiving bursaries would have to give back to society through community contribution responsibility to further develop the country, but the details of this “are still being worked out”.

Deputy minister of higher education, Buti Manamela, said that he was once a student leader prior to 1994 and that the implementation of the bursary scheme is “not only a victory for students, but it is a victory for South Africa”.

Student activist, Kaamil Alli, said that he was glad that the government was making progress on funding free education. “I had reservations about the implementation of the policy for higher education but I am pleased to see that the process has been largely smooth apart from expected administrative flaws from NSFAS,” Alli said.