Unisa management has forfeited its 2016 bonuses and put the R10m into a kitty for fees for deserving poor students, the university said on Wednesday.
By its calculations, this will add to its existing contribution to top-up National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding in 2016 for undergraduate and postgraduate students (R74.1m) and the Unisa bursary fund (R11.4m), bringing the total institutional financial aid to R95.6m for the current year.
“We understand the demand by students for free education, but given the challenges that this worthy cause encompasses and the reality that it cannot be achieved overnight, we thought it imperative to make our own contribution to try and alleviate the inclement conditions of our students,” said Unisa principal and vice chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya.
Makhanya said there had been a steady decline in the number of students getting NSFAS funding in the past two years, compared with an increase of 7% of students requiring the NSFAS loans.
A contributor was the introduction of the central NSFAS application model at the beginning of 2014. According to the new model, all application and award processes usually carried out by Unisa had to be transferred to NSFAS as part of a pilot project.
This meant the institutional knowledge relating to the process at Unisa was lost and led to less NSFAS funding at the university.
Makhanya lauded Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement that students from households earning less than R600 000 a year would not have their fees increased for a second year running.
At the same time, he said he hoped that a solution to the fees crisis could be found without adversely affecting poor students.