Department of higher education secures lower mobile rates for NSFAS beneficiaries
The department of higher education & training on Saturday announced that they have successfully negotiated favourable rates with all mobile network operators for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries and the Funza Lushaka students.
This emerged as part of Minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nzimande said students will receive 10GB daytime and 20GB night-time data for three months, starting from June 1 until the end of August, as subsidised by government.
“As stated in our last briefing, government is committed to ensure that all NSFAS students have access to an appropriate device to support their online learning and to ensure that no student is left behind. Some universities have already issued their students with laptops, some as part of their normal policies, others as a response to Covid-19.
“A lot of work then had to be undertaken to quantify the exact number and location of these students who still need to be issued with devices. That work has now been completed and procurement will commence as soon as the approval of the Minister of Finance is received,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande said he was also pleased to indicate that NSFAS had concluded an agreement with Sars to provide NSFAS access to the latest tax data in order to validate household income of NSFAS applicants.
“NSFAS will now also be able to include other income such as investment and rental income in its applications assessment. This will greatly assist towards finalisation of outstanding appeals”.
Nzimande said their partnership with the department of social development (DSD) saw a dramatic improvement in approval for social welfare beneficiaries, and more than 240 000 new entrants were approved for funding.
“Taken together, indeed NSFAS is truly providing for the most vulnerable and the poor members of our society by opening up gateways out of poverty. The shift to provide for learning material for NSFAS students to include digital devices will not only address technology enabled pedagogy over the lockdown period but will truly move South African education into the modern era offering access to wider resources and teaching materials”.
'This bold step will also be extended to TVET students for whom access to technology will improve their skills fit for a modern economy,” he said.
Nzimande said while they acknowledge that students who fall within the so-called “missing middle” category, as well as students in private institutions also needed support in accessing data for their online learning, as many of them also come from homes that are hit hardest by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately government is currently not in a position to subsidise them.
“We however appeal to mobile network operators to work with institutions to also offer affordable packages to such students. I am however working towards establishment of an affordable higher education loan scheme involving the private sector,” he said.
He also said that should the country move to level 3, a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences, on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department.