The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) said that all monies have been paid despite the coronavirus pandemic and has encouraged students who require funding to apply. NSFAS paid funds to public institutions of higher learning or TVET colleges directly, which then distribute the funds to students whose applications were successful.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat on Thursday, spokesperson Phatisa Ntlonz explained that numerous changes have been implemented to combat the effects of the pandemic in South Africa. This, she said, includes the automating of the NSFAS system. It comes as thousands of students were instructed to stay indoors alongside other citizens to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
When the minister of higher education Dr Blade Nzimande opened the application for 2021 on August 3rd, NSFAS anticipated a high influx of applications. According to Ntlonz, 366 396 applications have been received to date and while trends show a usual increase in September, given that students neglected the opportunity when applications first opened, an average of between 5-6000 applications have been received daily. For the past two years, the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces have had the least applications, with the Western Cape only bringing in 19 378 application, which accounts for around 5%.
“We are very glad and excited that students are taking this opportunity to make sure that miss out or fall out of the system when 2021 gets here.”
“We are just making sure that we tighten our outreach programmes and our activations in communities to make sure that students know of NSFAS and that if they come from families with a total income bot more than R350k per annum, they qualify to apply for the government grant.”
She explained that an automated system was used once institutions provided registration data. In March, the toll-free number was suspended and a virtual Contact Centre was launched which incorporated social media and emails.
In April, digital platforms myNSFAS Connect on the My NSFAS portal were kicked off. The latter, she explained, is similar to a WhatsApp chat which allows students to engage with an agent and receive prompt responses. In this case, you will be requested to provide your ID number to verify your application.
Nlontz added that NSFAS began working closer with the Department of Basic Education in 2019 to increase its footprint. This made more services accessible, such as availing teachers centres for use as application centres, some of which are based in schools. She noted that the collaboration also opened the door for hosting outreach and information sessions at the high school level, about NSFAS and it’s the funding it provides.
She emphasised that students are encouraged to engage with NSFAS if they have issues, “so we can resolve them directly.”
Regarding the delays to the 2020 academic year amid the pandemic, Nlotz said that this will not be affecting funding.
“From our side, we are not changing any processes. We will confirm what the status is then. When students have applied, by the time they go to register they would not have lost their funding at all because we understand the academic year will be delayed. Everything will go according to plan as per institution,” she elaborated.
“Some institutions have said that they will be able to finish the academic year by December. Others have indicated January, February And March.”
“We will follow whatever sequence is happening to make sure that the students who register later. All in all, students should not be worried about their funding or the academic year. All they have to do is make sure they apply at their institutions and for NSFAS funding as well.”
NSFAS funding only applies to government institutions and private facilities are therefore exempt from receiving any monies.
In order to apply you need to:
• Be a South African citizen
• Come from a household which does not earn more than 350k per annum
• Be a student that is studying at an institution of higher learning, or intend to study next in 2021.
Applications will require:
• Copy of ID/birth certificate
• Copy of ID and proof of income from parents/guardians. If parents/guardians are not working then no letter or affidavit is required.
Nlotz also explained that the consent form, which gives NSFAS the approval to verify the information provided to it, has been eliminated. This information is however embedded onto the website and forms part of the online application process.
“If you don’t click on this (consent button), your application won’t go through,” said Nlontz.
Students can contact NSFAS via an email to email@example.com, message to its Facebook platform National Student Financial Aid Scheme or Twitter @myNSFAS
Applications close at midnight on 30 November 2020.