Manamela said this when he visited the NSFAS office in Cape Town on Tuesday to assess the progress for applications for the 2019 academic year for prospective students who qualify for free higher education.
Accompanied by newly appointed NSFAS Administrator Dr Randall Carolissen, Manamela said the response from prospective students has been very good.
“As you know, yesterday we officially opened the applications for the NSFAS for students to indicate that they want bursaries. My intention here today was to essentially look at what the first day looks like and I must say the numbers are quite alarming.”
He said yesterday alone, 45 000 people logged on to the NSFAS website.
“They also received more than 10 000 calls yesterday and I think it shows that the information has gone out there. Interest has spiked and therefore it means that capacity has to be developed here in order for us to respond all of those things.”
Manamela said the applications process is based on a new system, which means funding decisions are made quicker and they are easier for students to fill on those applications, irrespective of where they are.
“Some of the lessons that we have learnt are being integrated into the new [system],” he said.
Progress made to clear backlog of outstanding payments to students
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister said progress has been made to clear the backlog of outstanding payments to students.
“What I am also excited about is the fact that progress has been made with regards to backlog issues.
“The number of students who have been waiting for payments has now been reduced.
“About two weeks ago when the administrator was appointed, it was up to [over] 60 000, and more than 23 000 of those have been resolved,” he said.
He said a team that has been deployed to attend to “crisis areas”, which includes UNISA, University of Venda, Tshwane University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology and all the affected TVET colleges, is dealing with the challenges.
While the concerns that have been raised by students through labour unions are being tackled, Manamela urged students to engage with the new administrator.
He said the department has heard the plight of the students.
“Most importantly, we have heard your plight. We understand that it has been extremely difficult for students to be able to get happiness from NSFAS.
“What I would also like to emphasise is that we have received more than half a million applications and 430 000 of those have already been processed and yes, one student is one too many (sic).
“I also think that we need to look at the positive side and that a lot of work has been done by NSFAS staff in order to respond to the bigger challenge. What is urgent is to ensure that we resolve the backlog of the students that have not been paid and the administrator has given me his assurances that he will not withdraw his troops on the ground until the last student has received their remittances and I think that also gives us hope,” he said.
Carolissen said, meanwhile, that he has resolved most of the issues ever since he took over.
“We have disbursed book allowances to UNISA students – 25 000 of them. We have sorted out a number of administrative issues and I think it’s captured by the fact that we have disbursed R2.2 billion over the past two weeks.
“We are very pleased with the progress because NSFAS staff have responded very positively and they have worked very hard over the past two weeks,” he said.