Nzimande clarifies: NSFAS beneficiaries not eligible to benefit from Sassa R350 relief grant

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  • Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande briefed the nation on funding decisions on Monday. 
  • Nzimande also clarified various issues, including a pending court case brought by Unisa's EFF Student Command Council on student's exclusion. 
  • The minister said students benefiting from NSFAS were not eligible for the R350 social relief grant because they are already benefiting from the State.  

The Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation has clarified confusion around the Sassa social relief grant and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), saying students can't benefit from both. 

Speaking during a briefing in Pretoria on Monday, updating on funding decisions at higher education and clarifying other arising issues in the sector, Minister Blade Nzimande said however, that students who were beneficiaries of the Sassa child grant were automatically eligible to the NSFAS bursary. 

Nzimande said the R350 temporary social relief grant - extended for three months - targeted unemployed people who did not receive any other funding from the state. 

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"NSFAS students are already receiving assistance from government for purposes of studies [and] therefore; you can't get an NSFAS grant and the R350. The R350 is not meant for those," Nzimande said. 

The minister added that there was no exclusion on anyone. 

Nzimande announced during the briefing that registration at universities would be extended by two weeks due to NSFAS delaying the confirmation of funding eligibility for first-time students. 

He said that due to the impact of Covid-19, the scheme had a shortfall, resulting in delays. 

"I am, however, pleased to formally announce and confirm today that NSFAS is going to be funding all returning NSFAS beneficiaries students who meet the academic and other relevant criteria for continuing their studies," Nzimande said.

The department said NSFAS had a R35 billion budget which was not enough. It said its executive was addressing the budget shortfall.

UNISA student exclusion

Commenting on the High Court case relating to the exclusion of University of South Africa (Unisa) first years, Nzimande said it was unfortunate. 

He added that the sector did not want anyone excluded from the system.

SABC News reported last week that the High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment in an application brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters' Student Command Council on the exclusion of 20 000 first-year Unisa students. 

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The EFF's Command Council was against Nzimande's instruction that the institution cut the number of first-year students to ease pressure on NSFAS. 

Speaking about the case, Nzimande said: "This matter is a bit difficult to deal with in some detail because it is before the courts at this point in time. All I can say, apart from no one wanting to punish or seeing students excluded, what we did as the department, was to insist with all our institutions that they must stick to agreed enrolment plans. All of our universities, not just Unisa." 

Nzimande said universities were not expected to take more or fewer students in their funded spaces, adding that if an institution decided to take more, there were financial implications. 


"One, it means we have to take money from other institutions to support those who have gone beyond the limit that has been set. Secondly, it means we have got students who are beyond the institution's capacity that we had agreed upon. 

"It was very unfortunate for Unisa to decide to enrol more students for two years in a row. All we said to Unisa is that we need to correct that and can't continue to do this because if we allow it, we are going to be throwing our enrolment plans out of the window." 

Nzimande said the decision was not taken to punish students, but to ensure the system would meet student needs, adding that no one was against Unisa and students' exclusion. 

Nzimande said he noted that Parliament's portfolio committee had called in Unisa to explain and outline who was responsible for allowing more students' intake, so they may be held accountable.  

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