The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) briefed the Committee on registration at Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges. It mentioned challenges faced by the Department with regards to the administration of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which affected the implementation of the new DHET bursary scheme. In 2019 NSFAS was put under an Administrator with a focus on managing the close of 2017/2018 funding cycle and smooth implementation of 2019 finding cycle.
For Universities there have been multiple disruptions to the registration period in 2019 which led to the tragic death of a student at Durban University of Technology. Campuses in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) have all been shut down and there were also serious protests a Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) remain suspended. Despite the multiple challenges most institutions were done with registration.
In TVET Colleges the registration of students and enrolment management was monitored by DHET office officials during January. Over enrolment, poor infrastructure, and busing of students, were issues discussed with regards to TVET Colleges. The Central Applications Clearing House (CACH) had seen an increase in sign-ups for 2019 but the Department was awaiting finalised data on placements.
Members raised issues on how students misused the allowances since it was no longer vouchers but cash given to students. There were suggestions of stricter policies to monitor how students spent the allowance money. The DHET delegation stated that the move from voucher system to cash happened fast and students were not taught on how manage their finances, but process were being put in place to address the matter. The focus of Members was on the students who abused the allowances, but the delegation reminded the Committee of the students who sent the allowances home.
Concern was raised about the issue of the repayment of NSFAS loans due to the developments in free education. The Department assured the Committee that loans were being repaid as the NSFAS loan facility was still active.
There was an update on the R14 million overfunded student but as the matter was in court, the Department had limited information available on the case. On student accommodation, the DHET student housing programme was looking at available land belonging to Universities or TVET Colleges for government to provide support to build infrastructure on their campuses that these institutions would own and manage.
The Committee felt displeased with the absence of the Minister and Deputy Minister as they had issues that would be dealt with best by politicians as opposed to Department Officials. Members adopted the Legacy Report. This was the final meeting of the Committee with its current Members and remaining matters would be dealt with progressively.
The Chairperson welcomed the delegation from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and gave apologies from the Minister and the Deputy Minister. She emphasised the need for the presence of the politicians to respond to the questions. She posed question to the Committee on whether to proceed with the meeting without the presence of the Minister and the Deputy Minister.
Ms ML Moshodi (ANC) proposed that the Committee continue with the meeting because the Members need the information to be presented by the DHET.
The Chairperson handed over to Ms Diane Parker, Deputy Director General: University Education, DHET to commence with the presentation.
Briefing on registration at Universities and Technical and Vocational Training, and Training Colleges by the DHET
Registration at Universities
Ms Parker started the presentation with registration at Universities. She gave an overview of the focus of her part of the presentation on Universities and mentioned the difficulties faced by institutions during the registration period. She reported on the conclusion of the 2018 academic programme where she stated that a small number of institutions experienced protests and disruptions which affected the academic programme, however, majority of institutions managed to complete the academic year.
The Soshanguve campus of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and Walter Sisulu University (WSU) had significant disruptions, and the protests resulted in the death of a student at TUT. These protests were institution specific.
One of the biggest challenges in 2018 was difficulties with the administration of NSFAS affecting the implementation of the new DHET bursary scheme for students from poor and working-class backgrounds. There were huge delays with the confirmation of funding to students.
Preparation for 2019 academic year
NSFAS was put under Administration by the Minister in August 2018, after significant administrative failures at the entity.
The Administration was able to stabilise the funding situation with some challenges persisting in the entity. She stated preparations for the 2019 academic year were a major priority for the Minister, DHET, and the institutions where there were engagements between the Minister, DHET, and the institutions to prepare for 2019. The Administrator has been working close with the institutions to solve problems as they happen, she added that a majority of students received the allowances right after registration period.
2019 Registration period at Universities
There have been a number of disruptions in the 2019 registration period and the issues raised are multiple and institution specific.
The campuses in KZN have been shut down and there was also the tragic death of Mlungisi Madonsela, a third year student at Durban University of Technology (DUT), who was shot by a security guard during the protest.
The classes remain suspended at TUT as there have been serious protests on that campus.
Ms Parker stated that there was a limited amount of money available from government and that there were complex issues that existed for students. She stated that students on the new scheme receive full funding for actual university fees and book allowances. Students on the old scheme received a capped amount. The Department has been identifying their debt and if there was an amount over the actual fees the DHET was trying to create a process to deal with the debts. The returning students get the same book allowance with the students on new scheme.
She reported on the meal allowance that is received by all students living in residences, however, students living near the university do not receive the meal allowance and that seems to the contention. She stated that students are demanding that all students receive meal allowance and providing meal allowances to all students would have serious fiscal implications and the DHET needed to collect data to make a decision. She realises that there was an issue of food security in the country and the DHET was working with institutions to find a solution to this problem but it could not open the flood gates to give every student a meal allowance.
She stated that students living at home do get a transport allowance and an incidental allowance in cash form. She stated the old system was differentiated depending on the institution, she added that many of the issues NSFAS faced were related to a change from the old system to the new system. The DHET was continuously engaging with institutions, Student Representative Council (SRCs), and the student unions, but one thing it could not do is to simply change policy.
She reported on the impossibility of funding postgraduate studies for students as the NSFAS model was created by government to fund undergraduate studies. She stated that DHET was monitoring all institutions however they do not intervene in the internal issues of the universities.
The Minister worked with the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and SRC leaders and DHET was given a list of demands. Ms Parker stated that the Minister wanted the University management to work with students to ensure that students who were in debt to university but were on track to graduate in 2019 could register and the institutions could use their debt policies to manage the process.
She reported that the Minister stated that students should be provided with their academic records after graduation for work seeking purposes even if the student has outstanding fees. The Minister was committed to resolving issues relating to historic debt of NSFAS-qualifying students registered in 2018 through a due diligence in process with DHET, Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) by the end of March 2018.
She stated that students who do not qualify for NSFAS are expected to pay their fees, and some of the difficulties around student are not linked to the NSFAS student but are linked to other students not supported by NSFAS. She mentioned some of the challenges that affect the institutions which include; NSFAS allowance, shortage of accommodation, student debt, academic exclusion which is an institutional issue not DHET issue, health services, and safety and security. The DHET encouraged engagement between the SRC and the institution management to find solutions to the issues that institutions and students are faced with.
Student funding Policy Matters
Ms Parker on the issue of funding policies, stated that many of the protests were linked to the different systems of funding students. The DHET needed to do a deep review and conduct research to understand the issues around accommodation allowances and how to put in place a policy to ensure that students were supported better. She stated that the 2019 policy is not different from 2018, however, several institutions continued to implement policy differently in 2018 and without adequate controls in place at NSFAS.
The DHET was engaged in detailed policy development process with NSFAS revising the student funding policy to ensure that it is informed by the facts on the ground.
On student accommodation, the DHET was planning to implement an infrastructure project that would counter the problem of student accommodation. The Department was implementing the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme which was working on a range of partnerships to provide 200 000 students beds for universities and 100 000 students beds for TVET over a 10-year period.
The R4.1 billion investment by DHET aims to help universities and TVET colleges with issues around student accommodation but these efforts by DHET are significant but not enough. She stated that senior and postgraduate students should practice agency to look for accommodation as they are provided allowance, the priority for accommodation must given to new students. The scale of accommodation was not in balance, and it was suggested that senior and postgraduate practice agency by coming together and looking for alternative accommodation like renting a house to make space for new students.
University Fee Adjustments
She reported that in 2016 there was no fee increase, and in 2017 and 2018 institutions increased fees by 8%. Gap funding for students with family income of up to R600 000 per annum, was provided by DHET to have a discounted fee. She reported that for 2019 the Gap funding is no longer provided to students and instead the DHET has provided more funds to universities to support students who were on Gap funding and implement 5.3% fee increases on 2015 fee amount. The DHET was working with Universities to create a framework for fee increases to ensure that the increases were not way above inflation rate and to create an environment where fees are more affordable to students.
Student funding, allowances and regulation of university fee adjustments were key policies that would be finalised before the end of 2019 for implementation in the next academic year.
Central Applications Clearing House (CACH)
She reported on CACH which had not been operated since 2013 and stated that the idea of CACH was to create a space for students who have been rejected by institutions to be redirected to other spaces in the system or redirected to career counselling and advice.
There was much higher volume of students in the CACH system in 2019 than 2018. In 2018 there were 48 643 sign ups and in 2019 there are 57 170 sign ups. The Department was awaiting 2019 data on actual placements through CACH. Over 8 000 students have found actual placement in institutions in 2018 and numbers are expected to increase significantly for 2019. The increase in more students registering for CACH was the policy by institutions to not accept walk-ins but a database to look at students who need placement instead.
Registration at TVET Colleges
Mr Themba Msipha, Chief Director; TVET Systems Planning, DHET, reported on the registration at TVET colleges and stated that the process of enrolment plan commenced in August 2018 where the DHET convened sessions with TVETs to plan for the 2019 academic year.
One of the key outcomes of the sessions between the DHET and TVET Colleges was the enrolment plan which required colleges to outline the number of students they would admit for the coming year based budget they have been allocated. He stated that the enrolment plan had to indicate the sources of funding for the students. The Department had to monitor enrolment at the beginning of the academic year and during monitoring this plan enrolment into the different programmes were reported on. He stated that the registration and enrolment management were all monitored by DHET office officials during January when schools re-opened.
Monitoring Registration- Regional Offices
He reported on the monitoring progress in terms of the enrolment targets and considering that for TVET Colleges there 6 enrolment intakes where 1 annual, 3 trimesters, and 2 semesters in an academic year. There is monitoring for every intake to ensure that there is adherence to the targets, that colleges are operating within the budget, and if the colleges have challenges, the monitoring will help the DHET and TVET colleges find solutions. He stated that once the enrolment process had been completed the teams from the regional offices were asked to go the colleges chosen to ensure that there was adherence. One of the criteria used when choosing colleges is historical poor practices, large enrolments where colleges enrolment more than the targets, and the current instability.
Monitoring Registration- National Offices
Subsequent to the regional offices, the officials from national department provides support and monitoring, and produce reports on what they have observed. He stated that there are challenges such as information and management as well as the bursary application and administration which are also monitored by the officials from DHET.
Recurring and Emerging Issues
The DHET has noticed trends of recurring issues at TVET Colleges, one is the attempt to force TVET into instability and pressurise over enrolment. Due to high matric pass rate and students not able to find a place in colleges from the previous academic year, students and communities pressurise campus managers and principals into exceeding the enrolment target. The issue of self-interest has been noticed by DHET where there is a phenomenon of busing students. He stated that there were student accommodation service providers who were recruiting student especially from rural areas, transporting them and providing accommodation.
The accommodation service providers then force the colleges to admit students and the management of Colleges to pay for student accommodation without proper channels being followed by service providers. DHET noticed the challenges with connectivity especially those in rural areas there are challenges with a bandwidth and that situation needs to be attended to. It was noticed that students preferred to study far away from home to access the transport allowance.
The migration patterns of students were complex and increasingly linked to the NSFAS bursary and students migrated to faraway towns to get better allowance. These patterns had to be investigated and factored into enrolment planning for 2020. The role and visibility of college principals at site level during peak registration periods had to be improved.
On the issue of aging infrastructure and utilising the facilities for another purpose, he stated that there was no baseline funding for infrastructure development at TVET Colleges and it was the first time in the current financial year to be an allocation of R1.5 billion. There remained a hefty demand for student accommodation, but the current buildings were in bad condition.
There was an issue of outdated equipment being used in the TVET Colleges which impacted student’s learning as they were being trained on outdated equipment.
Processes of application, selection and admission via pre-registration require to be entrenched into college practices in 2019. This was the main focus for 2019.
The ordering of more textbooks and an increase in the capacity of laboratories was needed as it was impacted by over enrolment in colleges.
2019 Enrolment Statistics
The enrolment statistics from 50 colleges who submitted data indicated a total of 326 557 students have been enrolled in various programmes.
On disruptions, he noted a pattern of transporting disruptions from one college to another and students mobilising by students from other institutions to disrupt the colleges.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA) thanked the DHET delegation for the honesty expressed in the presentation and complimented the improved services implemented. She stated that as the presentation was ongoing she kept telling Ms P Samka-Mququ (ANC) that the government is doing too much and that everything was handed to the students on silver tray.
The students were getting everything from allowances to dictating what the government should provide for students and were getting far more than students in previous eras. She stated that students are being begged for their education, she asked how long will the government continue providing everything for students? For example, Human Settlements created an impression of building RDP housing for people and now the government was saying that people will be given land, electricity, and water and people will provide everything else for themselves.
There would come a time in the education sector where government would provide certain services and leave other things for students to provide for themselves. What is the pass rate considering everything that the students are being provided by the government? She asked what the monitoring measures put in place by the DHET on how students spend the allowance since it has been changed from vouchers to cash were.
She stated that the students used the money to buy liquor and made an example of University of Cape Town (UCT) students buying liquor in Rondebosch. How is the DHET monitoring the allowance money so that it is used effectively, as the presentation was silent on monitoring?
She asked what the success rate in terms of receiving back the money from students who have graduated and are now currently working was. How much has the DHET got in repayments of the study loans?
How is the DHET monitoring and ensuring that the funding given to students is skills-based as there is a shortage of skilled students especially in TVET Colleges? She asked what measures were in place to ensure funding is for the skills that the economy of the country needs. Was there a committee in place to monitor and address this issue?
Is the funding given to students worth it and is the government going to get something in return from funding students? She stated that she had so many questions that could only be answered by the Minister, who was the politician in the DHET and therefore could not be directed to the DDG.
Ms Samka-Mququ welcomed the presentation from the DHET and stated the government was dealing with a monster, where the government was “hunting an eagle with a dog”. She stated that the children did not want education, she made an example of students at WSU who use the NSFAS allowance to buy alcohol. Was the DHET doing the right thing by giving allowances to students? She stated that the question should be directed to the Minister and this issue needs political intervention.
Was the NSFAS policy going in the right direction? The policy question had to be directed to politicians as officials in the DHET implemented the policy.
She made an example of the unpleasant dirty conditions in TVET Colleges and she said that was the mindset of students. The government had proper policies in place for funding and supporting students, but the challenge was with the communities. She commented on the busing of TVET College students as a disruption to the functioning of the higher education sector.
She stated that the 6th Parliament should look at the issue of how NSFAS allowances are spent by students. Students use the food vouchers in exchange for cash to buy alcohol at the supermarkets and added that NSFAS was not doing well in that regard.
On the issue of infrastructure, she stated that students burned beds during protest action. She expressed concern over the state of the higher education sector and the issues relate to policies which needed to be raised with the Minister so that policy was reviewed. She asked if students should be given the allowances as they are not used correctly?
Mr C Hattingh (DA) presumed that problems with regards to the repayments of NSFAS money were complicated after the announcement of free education. He wanted an indication of the extent of the complication. He assumed there was a decrease in the repayment of NSFAS money after the announcement of free education, and asked, what the total outstanding was and if it carried interest, and how it had been managed.
Where do the repayments go, are they transferred back to NSFAS or to the fiscus? Are there legal consequences for students who default on the repayments?
He was unclear on how much the DHET knew about the abuse of the allowances, what steps did the DHET have in place to curb this problem? Since there are limited funds is there a redirection of the allowances to the people who need them the most and not to the students who abuse the allowance.
Ms Moshodi welcomed the presentation and asked about the employees protests University of Free State on contracts and outsourcing, and its effect on students. How far was the DHET from resolving the issue of employees protest as it started in 2015?
On more learners receiving NSFAS allowances, and she stated that as a National Council of Provinces (NCOP) member she would like to see statistics province by province.
She asked about the success of resolving queries by NSFAS and requested statistics on the matter.
On the issue of student accommodation, she said that the Department should do its homework properly when deciding on provinces that should receive more beds as the Free State was not on the list. She added that she would not like to see a protest because of the exclusion of some provinces.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC) started with the issue of value for money and value of education, she stated there were TVET colleges where government sponsored everything, and it was not getting value for money. There are instead dropouts and students that are qualified but do not love their country, and it had to start somewhere.
If students believe in protests, they will always focus on the negative things in life. What is it that government is doing to achieve value for money? She made an example of a student residence in Belhar that is situated next to a complex, and students go to buy liquor and spend taxpayer money. Is it best to monitor the student’s movements and if so, is that the responsibility of the government? She suggested a review of the policies by the DHET.
She stated that the students who are making the system to fail are those who can afford and the ‘missing middle’ students are at a disadvantage. Is it not possible for the DHET, Department of Social Development, Department of Home Affairs, and Department of Public Service and Administration to synchronise their data to get more information on parents in order to cut down on funding students who do not deserve funding.
She stated that students falsify information and use the information of their grandmothers to be beneficiaries of NSFAS. Are there proper measures in place to monitor the process of applying and granting of funding to students? When students are asked to bring parents when applying for NSFAS the students will always bring their grandmothers and not the parents, and she added that synchronisation of DHET would be the best remedy to all these problems.
There were private companies building student hostels and what was DHET doing about them, now that it was working together with Human Settlements to build hostels. What was the difference between government lodges and private lodges, and who determined the pricing? She stated that the conditions in these accommodations are the same and, in some instances, the private lodges have worse conditions but still charge large amounts of money to students.
She added that sometimes the students negotiate with the landlords to inflate the prices and tell parents to pay more for the students to keep the remainder of the money. She commented that at the end of the day, parents needed to own up as they could not leave everything in the hands of students when it came to accommodation and getting to know the landlords.
She stated that Parent Imbizos need to be held for the parents and DHET to work together and find solutions for students. A boy child is a target, she stated the devil has done away with a girl child, the bullying, drug abuse, and protests are all being led by boys, what are political organisations doing to guide the young wings of the political organisations.
She stated that the parent political parties needed to step in when SRC members who represent their political parties were doing the opposite of what the party stands for. She stated that some of these protests were led by political parties that rival the ANC and the ANC could not allow these politically motivated protests to ruin the good policies as the policies did not discriminate based on political affiliation.
Stakeholders in the higher education sector need to work together for the betterment of the country, and fundamental in education is parents. Parents need to own up and monitor movements of the children as that is one way of helping government.
The Chairperson noticed that the members of Committee were emotional about the topic, and understandably so, as there was lot of wrong going on.
Ms Mpambo-Sibhukwana stated that she was expecting the DHET to report on the student that was overfunded last year. How did the DHET manage to retrieve the funds from the students as the student misused the money. What legal process did the DHET engage in, and what was done with the NSFAS employee who made that mistake of transferring the money to the student’s account? What has the Department done and what measures were in place to prevent such occurrences in the future as the presentation was silent on the issue?
The Chairperson appreciated the presentation and reminded the delegation about the matter regarding the assistance of the returning student from University of Stellenbosch who had to source out funding externally but could not find a place in university as the registration closed.
She stated that Members have commented and made profound statements and added that problems in education a societal issue as parents, communities, businesses, and politicians are involved.
She referred to the Singapore centre visited by the Member where students are trained and taught about patriotism from a young age and learn that your country does not owe you anything, but you owe everything to your country. She added that if politicians and policy makers did not adopt that line of thinking these problems would persist. Children lack knowledge and proper training of the importance of education and the government was doing everything in its power to make education accessible.
She made a radical point that if the students wanted to burn universities and return dark ages so be it. She stated that students are given everything they want and emphasised that there comes a time where students must learn the hard way. She stated that a centre like the one in Singapore could be one of the ways to solve the issues in the education sector.
She asked about the 15% fund that advanced payment to varsities. She added that the Committee had invited NSFAS to the meeting, but it could not make it but would have been easier to engage on these issues in their presence. What were the options available to non-NSFAS students still looking for funding and those who found the funding after registration was closed? In the debate the Members had agreed that government and DHET would not be able to provide accommodation to all students and all universities.
Funds available to government was the problem when it came to providing accommodation, the issue Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) was an issue as the private sector needed to assist government with funding to build accommodation for students. The President said that when it comes to opportunities of infrastructure where young businessman and women can take a part in terms of being players such opportunities should be opened to them to engage and participate. For example, if a business person wants to be a player in terms of these PPPs for accommodation in higher education and develop accommodation in terms of the specifications of the DHET, is there a space whereby the Universities commit to say they make use of the PPPs structure, can universities assist in that regard to solve the problem of student accommodation?
On the issue of allowances paid who are far from university, a scheme for destitute students that needs to be monitored and evaluation for deserving students. She stated that there needed to be policy review and stricter measures to monitor how students spend their allowances. She stated that she was at a TVET College where she found students sitting under the trees because the campus manager did not respond students with regards to campus allowance for all students. She would like to know the institution that have not implemented the funding policy properly.
On TVET Colleges, the busing of students spoken about, was the of agreement for busing, signed by students or parents? She was worried about the accreditation of TVET College workshop equipment that was outdated. She stated that TVET colleges in Malaysia and Singapore are incomparable to the ones that South Africa had.
She emphasised the importance of the TVET College sector because of the skills needed by the country’s economy, however the standard of TVET Colleges in the country was bad. She stated the amount of chaos in Community Colleges.
On over enrolling, how did over enrolling disadvantage the TVET Colleges? What are the reasons for over enrolling?
Ms Parker responded to the investment in the youth and stated that the idea must not be thrown away as the investment remained very important. She stated that how the support of students in higher education is the critical part. From the perspective of the DHET, the move to providing full funding for students and learning support material was critical and the students who receive funding are monitored in terms of progress.
The DHET had been working together with the Universities to develop data analytics capabilities. The Department was working towards ensuring that every student funded by NSFAS would have to go onto the system and upload the information on a regular basis so that there could be a place of contact. This would enable institutions to track how students were doing academically and if the students were meeting the minimum requirements and student support services could be provided. These were the systems that the DHET with Universities were building now to try and get to a point where every student would be tracked, and problems could be picked up instantly.
There were many antidotes suggested by the Members for students abusing allowance and there are many stories of students using the allowance money to support at home, but it seemed that more of the students used the money to send home instead of abusing the allowance.
One of the mistakes made earlier was not policy but was related to implementation of the policy where the move from voucher system to actual cash for allowance happened very quickly and there was not a preparatory period for the move. She stated that the students were not educated on the spending of allowances and emphasised that students need to develop a sense of responsibility and learn how to use money wisely. She reflected on her experience as a mother and stated that the children could not manage their allowances properly at first but learnt to develop a sense of responsibility as time went by.
On the issue of accommodation, she stated that the more senior students need to practice urgency and find alternative accommodation as universities would have to provide accommodation to first- and second-year students.
She stated that voucher yielded the same problems as cash allowance. The real issue was ensuring that the DHET put processes in place to help students understand how to manage the finances, take responsibility for themselves, and hold students accountable for their academic progress.
She said it remained critical that students who were not succeeding academically could not continue to receive funding.
One of the biggest problems the DHET had prior to the Administrator coming in, was identifying who was being funded, how were they funded, and following up on these issues. She stated that DHET only found out about the institutions that were not implementing the policy correctly when the Administrator was checking and verifying the data.
For example, at one institution the food allowance to new students was R1600 per month instead of R1350 per month and that additional amount was claimed from NSFAS and NSFAS had to claim it back from the institution. She stated that students from that institution think that the food allowance should increase from R1600 from last year which was causing an issue. The DHET was going through this difficult problem of having to rectify system.
Ms Mampuru wanted an elaboration on how the cash and vouchers had the same problems.
Ms Parker stated that students who have book vouchers, for example hang around at the bookstores and wait for customers and buy books for them at a discount in exchange for cash. She emphasised that students found a way around the system to abuse the allowance.
Ms Moshodi clarified on how students exchange the vouchers for cash.
Ms Thandi Lewin, Chief Director: University Education, DHET, said that the DHET was creating a new culture of monitoring and teaching students on how to manage the finances. There are students that will go and drink and cause disruption but there were also students, especially poor students who wanted to learn and graduate, get jobs and be productive members of society.
She stated that a lot of students are sending money home and emphasised that there are students abusing the allowance.
She stated that students that received loans have been repaying the loans and NSFAS was able to recover money, she added that the Department would not recover money from the new students as it was a bursary and not a loan. The DHET was worried that there would be a decline in repayments, however, this was not the case. She stated that the loan facility at NSFAS remained active and the debt of students who signed loan agreements was not written off as students still had to pay back the money.
Ms Mampuru asked how the DHET tracked students who had loans from NSFAS but graduated and decided to work overseas.
Ms Lewin replied that it is not easy to track internationally, but there were tracking systems in place and NSFAS worked with credit agencies to track repayments. She assured the Members that loan repayment was not bad as assumed. She emphasised that the loan facility at NSFAS was still active.
Ms Mampuru reminded the delegation from the DHET to respond to the R14 million NSFAS matter.
Ms Parker stated that there has been increase in loan recovery from the loan system. To put it into context, she stated that NSFAS was originally a loan system and students as soon as they finished and start working, had a garnishee order on their accounts so that they paid back automatically.
The National Credit Act(NCA) advised that reckless lending was not allowed and there had to knowledgeable and consent which was not the case as students did not give consent for funds to be taken of their salaries. The NCA intervention undermined the loan system of NSFAS as it saw a decline in recovering the money owed. NSFAS had to go out and look for the students and get consent. NSFAS started managing the process of identifying the people who must repay and some of the people were in government departments.
She stated that new students signing the loan agreement, had to sign the agreement that later they would pay back. NSFAS had the new bursary system but this has not taken away the possibility of NSFAS providing loans to students as it was still in the Act. She responded to whether the investment in NSFAS was worth it and said that the DHET data shows that students who are funded by NSFAS were doing better than students who are not funded by NSFAS.
The total studies yearly indicate, that students funded by NSFAS were completing their studies at a better rate than the general population students, unfortunately she could not show the Members the actual figures as her computer was dead.
She emphasised that it was right to keep supporting students, however, the policy need to be sorted so that it was not open to abuse by students. The Administration was working hard to stabilise the issues at NSFAS and put in stricter measures to solve the problems that were faced by it.
Ms Lewin stated that matter of the R14 million overfunded student was in court and there was a range of issues under sub judication. Unfortunately, there was certain information the DHET had no access to as it was part of the court case. She reported that the forensic work that has been done thus far had been unable to get to the bottom of this issue. What the DHET knew was that the parties involved were the University, the company (Intelimali), and NSFAS, and if there was fraud it had to be determined on which of the three servers it happened, which remained the challenge.
She stated that the limited information available due to the Court had made it difficult for the DHET to get to the bottom of the issue. She stated that it was important now that the work done by NSFAS to close the gaps in terms of policies and controls on the NSFAS system to check who has access to the system, and where does person gain access from was carried out. The process of putting stricter policies, controls and addressing data challenges and weakness that existed in the system remained as massive work to done by the Administrator currently.
The Administrator has spoken about is having middle companies engaged in providing funding to students so that university paying through a third party, and the long-term goal is to have students paid directly by NSFAS to eliminate those pathways to pay students. She hoped that when the court case was concluded there would be a clear picture of what transpired and assured the Members that a lot was being done to ensure that there was no repeat of overfunding students.
Mr Msipha responded to the whether there was a case for NSFAS, he stated that having interacted with many students in the sector, there students who legitimately deserve to be funded by NSFAS. The case of middle class and the poor exist. He appreciated that this year was the first-time money had been pumped into the system.
The Chairperson put the concerns of the members into context and stated that the members did not have an issue with NSFAS as a fund. She stated that the gripe was about allowances and not NSFAS paying tuition fees.
Mr Msipha stated that issues with TVET Colleges arise due to allowances, especially the busing of students. Due to students having accommodation and transport allowances, it was in the interest of the service providers to bus students from outside the location of the college. He stated that the busing of students did not happen in a structured way, it some cases happened outside the rules, sometimes it is through the capturing of students and demanding from the college to pay the service provider for accommodating the students. Together with that is the influence on students, where service providers kick students out if the colleges do not pay and in retaliation students protest to ask the college management to pay the landlord.
On the inflation of prices, he stated that what needed to be done was to identify the abuses in the system in relation to these allowances. The matter of the National Education, Health Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU), was in the chamber and the DHET provided a settlement agreement last year and NEHAWU moved out from that settlement agreement in the proposal, which ultimately led to a strike.
He stated that the issues raised by NEHAWU in the strike were the same issues negotiated on the Chamber and the settlement agreement proposal included these issues. This leads to the dynamics in the sector wherein some number vindicated, for example what NEHAWU is arguing is that from the migration exercise 3000 members not being made permanent, and the on the DHET records the actual number 260 of which only 157 qualify. This results in students mobilised because there is an impression created that there is problem within the system.
The issue of Lovedale College was related to a dynamic between management and organised labour which was causing concern, notwithstanding the fact that staff members did follow proper processes and management obtained a court interdict. When those measures were implemented people would go out of classes and disrupt teaching and learning and state that teaching and learning would not continue until the court interdict is withdrawn. He stated that the situation in Lovedale College is severe to the extent that the trimester has been lost and there is no effective teaching and learning. The DHET intervened to create a settlement agreement to resolve issues other than teaching and learning, and the future of the students was at stake.
On the matter of infrastructure, the DHET asked the Colleges to do the maintenance plans and prioritise teaching and learning spaces before the issues of equipment and in the long run focus on the equipment. He welcomed and appreciated the suggestion by Members for the DHET to partner with the private sector. The matter of standards in comparison to international colleges was an issue that the Department could not DHET be oblivious to.
The qualifications of lecturers were an area of concern, the DHET had a Lecturer Development Conference, and the Framework for Continuous Professional Development had been developed. The Department was also receiving inputs on if a policy could be formulated.
He stated that some lecturers in the TVET College sector were from Basic Education and have not been in the actual work environment or been exposed to the equipment and machinery that they are supposed to teach the students from. The DHET has partnered with some universities to develop qualifications and programmes that are specific to technical and vocational training. He also emphasised that over enrolments did not advantage TVET Colleges in any way but they were rather a severe disadvantage. The dynamic in over enrolment, was historical practices that benefitted staff members and not the TVET College and students. There was working being done on a policy framework to regulate part-time classes.
There are permanent staff members employed at Colleges and because historically they have inflated the actual enrolment numbers of students and were teaching part-time classes and claiming an hourly rate. Therefore, in addition to the standard salary the lecturers would earn extra for part-time classes, as such over enrolment was in the interest of lecturers and not the College.
Over enrolment was also in the interest of service provider, because the more students enrolled meant that more accommodation would be needed. He stated that over enrolment was a disadvantage to the college and compromised the quality of teaching and learning as well as put strain on the infrastructure.
On geopolitical dynamics of protests and disruption, the TVET Colleges in rural areas have few protests and disruptions in comparison to urban TVET Colleges. However, the highest levels of disadvantages and poverty were in areas where there were fewer protests and disruptions.
Ms Parker responded on the student housing programme and the issue of how DHET dealt with the stakeholders involved in student accommodation. The DHET student housing programme was looking at available land belonging to universities or TVET Colleges in order for government to provide support for the building of infrastructure on their campuses that universities and TVET Colleges would own and manage. There was a process that was being supported by the infrastructure programme for South Africa together with the Development Bank of South Africa where the DHET was working with specific institutions. The DHET provided some funding and the Development Bank of South Africa provided the rest for the 18 000 beds currently in the pipeline. There were also private developers who wanted develop housing in terms of the standards.
She reported that the private developers are engaging with specific institutions over the possibility of putting up housing and having leases with the institutions whereby institutions leases and manages their students. There are independent developers who build housing for students which was not from the university funds. She reported on the completely independent service providers who were providing for students, and there were very limited controls on pricing for those types of accommodation. The DHET was conducting the costs of different types of housing because there was a limited amount of funds available for each student accommodation.
She stated that there had been no success with regards to the PPPs, which has resulted in housing that is expensive which was the interest of the private partner rather than institutions. The Department was working on setting up rules that would eliminate the overcharging of students.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation that had been the elaborative and said that there had been fruitful engagement between the DHET and the Committee. She stated that this was the last meeting with the present Committee Members and the problems would be addressed progressively. The 6th Parliament will pick up where the current Committee left off.
Consideration and Adoption of Committee Minutes
The Chairperson went through the minutes for the 6th of March 2019, Ms Mampuru moved, and the Chairperson seconded.
The Chairperson stated that Members were given an opportunity to go through the Legacy Report and Members did not raise any issues with regards to the report. She suggested that members look at page 11 of the report as the entire report was a narrative of the issues on page 11.
Ms Mampuru suggested that the Committee wrap up the meeting and not go through the document as Members were given enough time to go through the document and raise issues.
Mr Hattingh commented on the quality and the accuracy of the report, he stated that there were 11 overseas trips which he was not aware of. The Members corrected him and stated that the trips were oversight trips. He asked if any Members of the Committee went on overseas trips.
The Chairperson responded that there were no overseas trips taken by any Member on behalf of the Committee. She presented the Legacy Report, Ms Mampuru moved for its adoption and was seconded by Ms Moshodi.
The meeting was adjourned.