By Bahle Gama
The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is projected to spend E680 million on scholarships and tuition this academic year. Minister Phila Buthelezi said this during a press conference held at the ministry, where he mentioned that E78 million will be for tuition and allowances for about 2550 candidates who stand to be awarded scholarships for this academic year.
“Of these 2500 are for local institutions and 50 for the respective institutions in the Southern African Development Countries (SADC) region. These numbers have decreased from 4100 and 100 respectfully, wherein locally the ministry spends E45 000 on each student and E150 000 outside the country on tuition and allowance,” he said.
This according to Buthelezi has been costly for the government hence the reduction in numbers and the minister emphasised that there will not be an increment as has been the case in recent years, whereby after reviewing more numbers would be added to the list.
He continued that this was not the entire budget for the year, as far as scholarships are concerned, the E78 million is for new entrances.
“We have been allocated a budget of E361 million for this financial year, of which an excess of E300 million has been spent on paying up tuition fees and allowances.
We project to spend a further E241 million on allowances and tuition fees over and above the E78 million allocated, which will bring the total expenditure as projected for this financial year to be E680 million,” he said.
He continued that given the limited resources available, the ministry will subject applicants to a means test, which is an assessment that will determine affordability for self-funding for programs, for which students are expected to appear physically for interviews before the selection board.
“They should also come along with their parents to ensure that the assessment is done appropriately. Only those who attend the interviews in person will be considered,” he said.
He further re-affirmed the ministry’s stance that they will not be funding this academic year as announced last year. Further, students with incomplete modules who have surpassed the agreed duration for funding will not be considered.
The minister further disclosed that last academic year, about E22 million which was unbudgeted was spent by the government. This was a result of servicing a request from the respective institutions to extend the scholarship agreement for two months, basing it on the pandemic.
“We do have a similar request even this year of a further three months, which unfortunately we cannot be able to accommodate. We request that they fund alternative means to get money to get them through the end of the financial year,” he said.
He further stated that they were mindful of the fact that other institutions had completed their academic years, only one or two of which were still ongoing and are yet to write exams, “but unfortunately, we cannot pay beyond the agreed arrangements. Appeals will also not be entertained as has been the case over the years. We do not have enough funds and we are doing this to ensure that we are awarding students as per the resources which we have in our coffers”.
In response to a question about the cut-off process in terms of the number of students to be sponsored, the minister stated that there will be a score card to be used which was yet under review by the board.
This is a means to prevent instances where there are protest actions by students demanding allowances and institutions knocking at their doors for unpaid tuition fees.
“Those are unfortunate incidents that we wouldn’t want to see repeating themselves, hence the cutting down on the number of scholarships to be awarded based directly against the ministry’s budget,” he said.
Parents and candidates have been advised that interviews for scholarships will be expected to begin at any time, hence they should prepare themselves and those outside of the country should ensure to be present on the days which will be announced “because it is mandatory that interviews be attended in person”.
…Scholarship Revolving Fund to be used in next academic year
Minister of Labour and Social Security Phila Buthelezi says the Scholarship Revolving Fund will be completed and, up and running in the next award for scholarships.
“We are aiming at finalizing it within the next three months as it has been through cabinet and parliament, to ensure that by the next academic year, people are aware of what is expected of them in terms of the scholarship application,” he said.
He stated that these were the last awards made directly by the government, and the next ones will be done through the fund. Regulations have been finalized, all that’s left is the processes with a few stakeholders for approval then roll it out to the public.
“We will be working with a bank, a stand-alone fund, and a board that will manage everything working with the ministry,” he said.
Candidates will directly apply to the institution they want, which will be doing the selection process on its own.
The minister stated that a candidate will be obligated to deal with the bank in the repayment of the loan once they have completed their learning period.
“The government’s role will be minimal in the entire process in the next academic year,” he said.