University bursaries: DA Youth welcomes President Zuma’s loan-to-bursary scheme
Makashule Gana , DAYouth Leader
11 January 2011
The DA Youth welcomes President Zuma’s announcement of a R150 million cash injection into the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to allow for greater access to tertiary institutions. We further welcome the intention of President Zuma to incentivise higher education success by allowing students who graduate from university to have their third-year loans converted to bursaries. This will not only make it easier for students to further their education, but will also encourage learners who are enrolled at South African universities with NSFAS loan support to complete their degrees, knowing that their final year of study will be free. Considering the financial difficulties that many students face, as well as the troubling drop-out rate affecting universities, this intervention could go a long way toward encouraging students to attend tertiary institutions and to get their degrees.
The R150m for the NFSAS will apparently come from the National Skills Fund and will be addressing the issue of scarce skills. R22.9m will be dedicated to funding first-year students; R7m will go to a special bursary scheme targeting high achievers in rural schools; R21m will go to first-year bursaries for people with disabilities and R99.1m will go to students who are already studying in the scarce-skill fields.
The President’s incentivised loan conversion programme, announced on Saturday, will reportedly cost between R2,4 billion and R2,7 billion this year. For many of our students, the prospect of paying back expensive loans acts as an insurmountable barrier to completing their studies, hurdles which are often made all the more agonising when students are on the cusp of graduation. Indeed, the estimated number of students who would be assisted stands at 47 000.
That is 47 000 young people who would suddenly have a new formal skill set before entering the job market and contributing to our economy in a variety of fields requiring specialised qualifications. We understand that this was only an announcement from President Zuma and that the details remain, somewhat understandably, vague at this time. We are not alone in our eagerness to hear the details on where the money shall be coming from to fund this ambitious project. No doubt, the thousands of young people affected by this announcement shall also be waiting for further details of how the administration intends to finance this scheme during the tabling of state expenditure in the national budget next month.
The DA Youth believe that, where possible and reasonable, the state should be doing all that it can to support education initiatives and higher education. Too often, the cycle of education cannot be completed because of a paucity of resources through no fault of the individual. We believe that this scheme could go some way to addressing these issues and, in so doing, contribute to skills development and retention and thus, ultimately, poverty alleviation.