The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has welcomed a helping hand from the Dihlabeng Local Municipality as a significant gesture to support the Scheme’s efforts to increase access for learners in the rural areas to apply for financial aid, before the closing date of November 30.
In a sign of how government has moved forward in recognising the importance of creating and promoting access to higher education for the disadvantaged, Dihlabeng Local Municipality, which falls under the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality in the Free State province, is the latest government institution to support the Scheme with its implementation of the new centralized application system.
“Only 15 days to go before the closing date, so we are hopeful this initiative will boost the number of applications we already received. We are confident there will be a sufficient number of Grade 12 learners – with no internet connectivity – who will use the paper application forms”, NSFAS head of business enablement and transformation, Victor Rambau said following a meeting with Dihlabeng Local Municipality, Bethlehem.
The executive council of the Dihlabeng Local Municipality said it could not have asked for a better partnership than the student funding and awareness initiative because most of the 11 high schools in Bethlehem are no-fee schools, saying that the partnership further reinforces government’s commitment to making education universal and accessible to all.
The local municipality will assist NSFAS to distribute and collect the manual application forms before the 30 November 2016, from learners who are in Grade 12 within the district.
“Beyond 30 November, we hope to create a long-lasting relationship with NSFAS to ensure the doors of learning are accessible to all our learners, through the provision of funding to accelerate access and success in higher education and training for the poor and working class families,” said Lindiwe Makhalema, executive mayor of Dihlabeng Local Municipality.
The Scheme will continue to respond to stakeholders on the ground in a bid to make applications easily accessible for rural municipalities, which have a high number of no-fee schools. Other similar districts and local municipalities are encouraged to offer a helping hand for the benefit of their own disadvantaged learners.
The 2017 NSFAS applications for financial aid opened from 1 of August 2016. NSFAS visited most of the rural areas to raise awareness of the application period and to help with distribution and collection of paper applications.
More than 249 439 students have registered and have successfully created the myNSFAS accounts on the new online portal, since the opening period. More than 67 000 online applications were completed, while 68 050 applications are still in the process of completion. At least more than 25 000 manual applications were received and are currently being captured at the NSFAS Head Office in Cape Town.