Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says about 16 public universities have not completed last year’s academic programmes whereas 10 others have completed all teaching and learning activities. Nzimande recently announced that the 2021 academic year was going to start in March. He said this was also going to allow matric pupils to register with institutions of higher learning.
“The department will work closely with the institutions in preparing the system for the opening of the 2021 academic year, which will take place between early March and mid-April. I am confident that with the support of all stakeholders we should successfully complete the academic year by the end of February for the vast majority of institutions and by March for all institutions,” he said.
Nzimande said higher education was badly affected by Covid-19 infections.
“By November last year we had a total number of 3,088 positive Covid-19 cases across universities and 58 deaths as a result of Covid-19-related illness.”
Nzimande also announced that there was a 25% increase in National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) applications, as it recorded more than 750,000 applications for the 2021 academic year. He said more than 460,000 of the applicants were SA Social Security Agency beneficiaries.
“The vast majority of applicants were able to apply using the online channel, with smaller numbers of students than in previous years using the National Youth Development Agency offices to apply, a direct result of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations,” he said.
He also added that NSFAS beneficiaries will receive laptops, funded from their learning materials allowance, which they will own and will be used for the duration of their studies. He said negotiations with mobile network operators aimed at making data accessible to students would resume soon.