Increase the funding

THOUSANDS of students across the country are currently being rejected by institutions of higher learning because they come from poor families.

This year, Treasury has not allocated enough funds to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). As a result, students who have turned to education to uplift themselves and their families out of poverty are having their dreams crushed.

I have been inundated with correspondence from these students who are fast losing all hope for a better life.

The DA believes no person should be excluded from opportunities to pursue further education because he or she cannot afford it. This is why our policy is for NSFAS assistance to be expanded for all qualifying students who cannot afford to study further.

A DA government would increase the NSFAS budget by R2-billion, which will make it possible to provide funding to the poorest 25% of students.

We would then, over time, increase the NSFAS budget to around R16-billion to ensure that no students are left behind because they are poor.

We also believe that full cover bursaries should be provided to poor students and converted to loans upon successful completion of their studies. In addition to that, students should be allowed to repay their loans through public service if they study scarce skills subjects.

Two years ago we made submissions to the ministerial committee for the review of the funding of universities.

The submission reviewed the university funding framework in its entirety and proposed changes that would serve to accelerate the realisation of the transformation goals for the university education system.

It seems that very little has changed.

We have written to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande to ask him to meet us and some of the affected students. The minister needs to see the faces of the students whose futures his decisions are affecting.

We also ask all affected students to make copies of their rejection letters and take them to the Daso branches on their campuses. We will collect these letters and we will personally take them to Nzimande at the requested meeting.

We also ask the affected students to sign a petition with our Daso branches.

Other students who would like to stand in solidarity with these students are welcome to do so as well.

We cannot afford to deprive the youth of this country of education opportunities. The future success of South Africa is linked to the success of its students.

Yusuf Cassim, DA Youth Federal chairman and former NMMU SRC president