Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, on Wednesday presented the department’s R107 000 116 billion budget vote during a virtual mini-plenary session.
Due to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, funds across government have been reprioritised and a total of R750 million was cut from the infrastructure budget.
However, Nzimande said over the period 2020/21 to 2022/23, the department will still see a substantial investment of R11.486 billion in infrastructure projects across the country’s 26 universities.
“We will continue to prioritise infrastructure development at historically disadvantaged universities to ensure that maintenance backlogs are addressed and the quality of infrastructure delivery management is improved at these institutions,” Nzimande said.
The Minister is currently in a process of restructuring and streamlining infrastructure management within the department.
He will soon appoint a Ministerial Advisory Team (MACI) on PSET infrastructure. He will also establish, working together with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), an Infrastructure Project Management Office, with a particular focus on student accommodation.
“We will also mobilise investment from, and establish partnerships with the private sector, in order to accelerate provision of student accommodation in particular, within the framework of the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee.
“In March 2020, we invested a further R496 million in student housing and other types of university infrastructure in historically disadvantaged institutions,” the Minister said.
R2 billion for COVID-19 response mechanism
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Nzimande said the department had to revise its appropriation to ensure a successful completion of the academic year.
An amount of R2.1 billion has been transferred from the State subsidy and reprioritised as a COVID-19 response mechanism for universities, both teaching and learning, as well as campus readiness.
Meanwhile, the department is currently finalising the process to appoint service provider/s for the provision of electronic devices, particularly laptops, to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)-funded students.
“This initiative will add onto the process of the provision of laptops by some 65% of our universities,” Nzimande said.
Together with NSFAS and the universities, the department is working on policy amendments that will allow for the NSFAS learning materials allowance to be utilised at all institutions to purchase devices for first-time entering NSFAS students in future.
“We will put in place this policy change for 2021. We are paying serious attention to issues regarding future student funding considerations, the high levels of student debt, funding for missing middle and postgraduate students,” Nzimande said.
The department’s budget appropriation for the 2020/21 is as follows:
- University education - R 79 177 737 billion;
- TVET - R 13 074 170 billion;
- Skills Development - R300 141 million;
- Community Education - R2 513 980 billion;
- Planning, Policy and Strategy - R198 069 million;
Administration - R445 503 million.