South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) applauds the Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor for providing debt relief to more than 50 000 tertiary students.
The Higher Education and Training Ministry announced on Sunday that R967 million was allocated to settle the historical debt of students the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) continues to fund. Students who were funded by NSFAS prior to the improvement of its funding mechanism in 2018 were expected to pay a portion of their fees from their own pockets. The self-funding portion of the fees is what resulted in the historical debt for those students who could not afford to cover it.
Minister Pandor’s announcement is a direct response to protests students staged across campuses earlier this year.
SATAWU is pleased that this move will not only provide much-needed relief to the students, who will now be free to focus on their studies, but will also come as a welcome respite to their working class parents, who undoubtedly would have been stressed about how to settle the debt.
A significant percentage of workers that SATAWU organises are employed in the security and cleaning sectors. The low wages and lack of job security due to low barriers to entry in these sectors deem workers vulnerable. SATAWU is delighted that our members are among those set to benefit the most out of allotted historical debt relief.
In addition, the nearly R1 billion fund will go some way in alleviating the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment as more students qualify debt-free and enter the working world without burdening their parents with the hundreds of thousands it costs to acquire a tertiary qualification.
SATAWU reiterates Minister Pandor’s appeal to “stakeholders in our society” particularly the private sector to work with government and institutions in finding solutions to support students from families that cannot afford to pay tertiary study costs.