The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has received more than 300 000 applications since the opening date for 2021 application cycle on 3 August 2020.
Briefing media on regulations relating to the COVID-19 level 1 restrictions on Wednesday, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, said the department is anticipating a high volume of applications leading up to the closing date in November.
"The pattern we have been seeing with regards to applications received per province remains interesting, as it has been consistent for the past three consecutive years, where Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo lead with the highest applications submitted.
"We have also seen some major improvements and positive changes from Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, as well as North West.
"To date, NSFAS has received over 300 995 applications, this number is extremely overwhelming and encouraging," Nzimande said.
In an effort to reach out to students who meet the requirements and who are in need of financial assistance but unable to access NSFAS funding due to lack of internet facilities or application resources in their areas, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offices nationwide are open to the public.
"These offices have been fully operational since 14 September 2020. Over 15 Department of Basic Education (DBE) National Teacher Centres from various districts and provinces have been made available to be utilised by applicants during this application cycle. Applicants can access these facilities during school hours," the Minister said.
Applications are opened for Grade 9 to12 learners and out-of-school youth who wish to further their studies at any public Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college or university across the country.
Bid proposals to supply, deliver laptops closed
Meanwhile, Nzimande reported that a tender to supply and deliver laptops to NSFAS students was re-advertised on 4 September 2020 and closed on 21 September 2020.
He said by the closing date, a total of 140 bid proposals had been received. NSFAS is currently evaluating the bid proposals, with the awarding of the tender estimated to be completed by 31 October 2020.
"NSFAS has conducted workshops and engagements with institutions and student leadership to spearhead the project, while the tender process is underway. Updated project guidelines and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be shared with institutions concerned.
"Once a service provider has been appointed, the learning devices will be delivered directly to the students..." the Minister explained.
Only contact NSFAS students funded under the Higher Education and Training budget, who are currently registered for the 2020 academic year at universities and TVET colleges, qualify to receive a device.
Nzimande said NSFAS has also welcomed further collaboration with pre-funding agencies, who wish to opt into the scheme based on the availability of budget and their associated conditions.
"These pre-funding agencies must notify NSFAS in writing of their intent to opt into the scheme and confirm budget availability. All potential recipients of the digital learning devices, as well as the implementing institutions, are subject to the guidelines and must abide by the rules outlined in the guidelines," Nzimande said.
He urged students and parents to familiarise themselves with the guidelines, which are available on the NSFAS website www.nsfas.org.za.
68% require digital devices
Nzimande said the department's monitoring reports show that 68% of the general student population had indicated that they require a digital device (laptop/tablet) and 69% of NSFAS students will be supported to obtain one.
He said the provision of data to university students remains high across the system, with 94% of undergraduate students being provided with data.
"It is expected that data provision will decrease over the next few months as more students return to campus and so have access to campus networks and Wi-Fi," Nzimande said.