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Over 400k students to be funded by NSFAS for 2016 academic year

Government has also committed a further R6.9 billion to support students.

Students shout slogans outside the African National Congress ruling party (ANC) headquarters, on October 22 2015, in Johannesburg during a demonstration against university fee hikes. Picture: AFP
Fees must fall,Wits fees must fall,Registration
Local

JOHANNESBURG – More than 400,000 students will receive funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for the 2016 academic year. 

In addition to R10 billion in loans and bursaries made available by NSFAS, government has also committed a further R6.9 billion to support students. 

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has held a briefing in Pretoria where he's outlined the various options available to students as a new group enters the tertiary education system. 

WATCH: #FeesMustFall reloaded.  


More than 200,000 students will receive funding at universities with the same number receiving support at technical and vocational colleges.

Nzimande says there is a need to ensure more financial support is made available.

“Academically deserving students [shouldn't be] denied access due to financial need.” 

The department says government has already allocated funds to ensure it sticks to its commitment of a zero percent fee increase this academic year.  

But with the 2016 instalment of the #FeesMustFall campaign slowly gaining traction it’s yet to be seen whether students will be satisfied with the interventions.   

PHYSICAL REGISTRATION POSTPONED AT WITS

Meanwhile, the #FeesMustFall protests have started with the suspension of physical registration at Wits protests over a strict online registration policy at University of Johannesburg and an attempted shut down of the Unisa main campus in Pretoria.

Students at Wits say they feel humiliated by requests to prove that they cannot afford the R9,000 fee after the institution said it would delay the deadline for poor students until March.

LISTEN: Registration halted at Wits.


Some students also want wits to scrap outstanding debt.

Wits #FeesMustFall member Sarah Mokwebo says registration fees should be scrapped for all students, not only those who are able to prove they're poor.

Wits Student Representatives Council (SRC) secretary general, Fasiha Hassan, says scrapping historical debt is one of their non-negotiable demands.

“There are serious financial and harsh realities on the ground that aren’t going to allow that at the moment. We have historic debt.”   

Returning Bachelors of Arts student Kopano Lebakene says he'll be excluded if the demands aren't met.

“I have outstanding fees at the region of about R10,000. If my mother pays for my outstanding debt then I won’t be able to pay for registration.”

Physical registration resumes on Wednesday but the SRC and the movement says they will continue with their demonstration.

‘NEEDY STUDENTS EXEMPT FROM PAYING ANY UPFRONT FEES’

Nzimande says government has ensured that needy students are exempt from paying any upfront fees as university registration begins.

He says those who qualify will have their upfront registration fees taken care of.
But students say those who don’t qualify for NSFAS funding and can’t afford hefty registration fees are still at a disadvantage.  

In the meantime, President Jacob Zuma is expected to announce a ministerial commission that will begin looking into the prospect of free higher education.

Click here to watch EWN's the year of the student feature.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)

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