Cape Town – Government has set aside R10bn for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, amid rumblings of a new wave of #feesmustfall protests, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Monday.
It had committed an additional R6.9b to support university education, he told reporters in Cape Town.
''This is a strong indication that government has listened to concerns raised by university students.''
The R6.9bn would go towards covering the R2.3bn funding shortfall universities would face due to the freeze in fee increases for this year.
Another R2.5bn would be spent on the around 71 000 students already in the NSFAS system whose fees had not been paid, or who had been underfunded for the past three years. A further R2.03bn was to help them complete their studies.
Nzimande said 205 000 first-time and continuing students would enter the university system this year. Another 200 000 would study at Technical Vocational Training and Education (TVET) colleges.
University students who qualified for funding in terms of the NSFAS means test would not need to make upfront payments to register for the 2016 academic year.
The NSFAS was allocated over 700m for full bursaries for scarce and critical skills from the current financial year.
This funding was made available through the financial aid offices in universities. Students were advised to enrol for science, maths, health sciences, and engineering courses.
A total of R72.9m had been earmarked to help disabled students. The government was already paying up to 80% of the programme cost at training colleges, depending on the type and severity of the disability.
Nzimande said the TVET college intake had doubled from 360 000 to 790 000. He said this was an indication this type of further education was becoming more popular.
''I am very confident that in a few years from now the image of these colleges will have changed.''
A commission set up after last year's countrywide protests against fee increases would look at the way forward regarding the ''zero fee increase'' policy in place for this year.
The decision to not raise fees came after clashes between students and police in October. On October 21, they tried to storm Parliament to get the attention of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene while he was delivering his mini-budget speech.