Wits chancellor: government must intervene

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This after students from Wits demonstrated at the Braamfontein campus over National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for first-year students.

According to Wits Student Representative Council, Sheera Kalla, hundreds of students would not get funding due to what she believed was a lack of communication by the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme and the university.

However, Habib rejected this notion saying the university informed students several times last year that they should prepare to pay their fees should there be insufficient funding from the financial aid scheme.

“For 2015, Wits has been allocated R179 million by NSFAS, of which approximately R152 million has been offered predominantly to returning students. The R152 million has been offered to approximately 2 090 returning students and 330 new, first-year students,” he explained.

“It is anticipated that by the completion of registration in mid-February that Wits will have offered NSFAS funding to about 450 additional students. In total, NSFAS packages will be allocated to about 2 870 students at Wits this year.”

Even with all these efforts, Habib still believes more needs to be done.

“The amount of funding available for students in South Africa wanting to pursue tertiary education is inadequate and well below that of international norms in similar developing countries,” he said.

“This is a national, systemic problem that should be addressed at the highest levels of government if we are committed to investing in the future of our country.”

Despite the fact the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme fund had quadrupled over the last five years to R9.5 billion, Habib said the demand for financial aid still outstrips the availability of funds dedicated to higher education study.

“There is definitely a need for more financial aid for students throughout the country, and rather than directing misguided anger towards universities, we should be approaching NSFAS, government and other sectors of society to collectively invest in developing the high-level skills that our country and continent desperately requires,” he added.

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