Confusion persists around NSFAS funding for PGCE students

University of the Western Cape (UWC) students say they have problems with the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). They have been informed that they will not be funded for the year 2021 and that they are running out of options. Students want answers from the university and the department.

Student comments

A student told the Daily Vox their problems started when the National Student Aid Scheme (NSFAS) deregistered them. However, the student said the university failed to notify the students in time. Students started the 2021 academic year with the impression that they would be funded. The students signed up for the year, but later found out that they would not be funded. The students submitted a brief of requests to the university for help. The student said he hopes the university will be able to fund them, as this is just a group of around 200 PGCE students who need funding.

Another student told the Daily Vox that NSFAS reportedly informed the university of the funding delay, but the university did not notify students. A number of students were previously funded by NSFAS for their undergraduate studies. Students were told to apply for the Funza Lushaka Scholarship for Education Students but they were rejected. “They basically ignore our situation where we need funding,” the student said.

“The Funza Lushaka Scholarship is a prestigious scholarship that must be awarded in the first place on the basis of academic ability.”

Applicants must study certain priority areas, such as mathematics and physical sciences, in order to qualify for the scholarship, according to the Funza Lushaka scholarship website.

Read more:

In their own words: NSFAS N + 2 students speak out

The universities

This problem does not only concern UWC students. Students of the University of Stellenbosch, among others, were also left to search for alternatives. The University of Cape Town said they had obtained funding to help some students. However, students enrolled in PGCE who applied to NSFAS for the first time in 2021 cannot be supported at this time. The university said it will continue to try to secure sponsorships for these programs.

UWC said it could not comment on the NSFAS position and decisions. The university said the issue of PGCE would be part of ongoing discussions with NSFAS. According to UWC, they will provide assistance where possible. “The university is grateful to the University of South Africa (USAF) for providing scholarships to BEd and PGCE students for the 2021 academic year,” he said. There will also be a call for new applications for student with distinction funding for the 2021 academic year.

NSFA response

Sibongile Mncwabe, director of general services at NSFAS, said funding for the programs is a policy decision of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Mncwabe said NSFAS only provides financial support for approved qualifications set out in the policy guidelines. According to the DHET 2021 scholarship rules and guidelines, the NSFAS does not fund the PGCE in 2021.

According to the guidelines, funded programs approved at universities are all undergraduate degrees offered by a public university. Postgraduate degrees, including postgraduate certificates, postgraduate degrees, honors degrees, masters and doctorates are not funded except in the case of qualifying students at the academic level from 2020 onwards who complete their qualifications.

Mncwabe said NSFAS will no longer fund the program for new students. However, students already enrolled in this program will be allowed to complete the qualification. According to NSFAS, in 2020, 4,047 students were doing their PGCE.

NSFAS made payments to all institutions from which registration data was received. The funding program will communicate when the 2022 application cycle begins.

A petition started convincing NSFAS to fund PGCE students.

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