Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dept to help pay for 25 000 students waiting to graduate

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 26 May 2011
Title: Dept to help pay for 25 000 students waiting to graduate

Cape Town - The Department of Higher Education and Training is coming to the rescue of about 25 000 students from universities who have completed studies but are not able to graduate and get jobs because they have not finished paying student loans.

Briefing the media before his Budget Vote in Parliament today, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, said his department would set aside about R200 million to help students who had taken out loans and had since graduated, but still owed monies to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Those who meet the requirements to graduate between 2000 and 2010, and who are eligible for NSFAS loans can apply for this special funding through their respective student financial-aid offices, he said.

Nzimande, who also made several other announcements on the NSFAS, said the new measure would apply to students that registered for loans from April 1.

These included a doubling of disbursements under the fund - from R2.7 billion in the 2010/11 financial year to R5.4 billion this financial year - and placing a limit on interest charged on student loans, so that students no longer have to pay the interest on their loans until 12 months after their graduation.

At present, interest charged on loans kicks in the moment you sign for a loan, unlike in Brazil and Canada, where interest payments on student loans only become payable after a student graduates.

Added to this, R50 million has been provided for post-graduate students who require financial assistance to complete their degrees.

These students will enter into loan agreements with the NSFAS and the money they pay back would be earmarked to fund post-graduate students, Nzimande, said.

But Nzimande hastened to add that this wasn't a license for other students to not pay back their NSFAS loans.

He said the department would approach SARS to assist in tracing and forcing those NSFAS loan beneficiaries, who are now working but are not paying back loans, to pay back their loans.

The department is also looking to increase the number of university accommodation available to students.

Currently only 18.5 percent of students stay in university accommodation and the department had set aside R686 million for the years between 2010 and 2012, to build and refurbish student residences, he said.

Nzimande said preliminary reports were being studied by the department on setting up universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, while work is also under way to increase the number of universities that offer courses for teachers that want to teach in African languages.

The department was also busy overhauling Further Education and Training (FET) colleges and department officials had already visited all 50 FET colleges to assess how to give hands-on support.

The minister said the career advice services programme, run by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), was launched in January this year and a website was now up and running -, as well as a Facebook group -

The department is partnering with the SABC, which is running 30-minute career guidance slots on nine radio stations, reaching about 2.3 million listeners per week.

The programme is broadcast in nine African languages and Nzimande said the department intended expanding the radio programme to Afrikaans as well.

Turning to the transformation of the Skills Education and Training Authorities (Setas), Nzimande said the department was strengthening Seta governance and had reduced the number of Setas from 23 to 21.

He said the department is tackling underspending at Setas and has told boards to reduce the trend.

Setas would be reconfigured to spend more on long-term workplace-orientated training.

The department would also be setting up a task team to analyse where Setas spend money and how much use Setas make of public learning bodies, rather than just private consultants.

Commenting about media reports on the appointment of ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's wife Nolwande as a member of the new Services Seta's board, Nzimande said Mrs Mantashe is a human-resource expert and should be seen on her own merits as a professional, rather than be judged on who she is married to.

Nzimande said the Green Paper on Higher Education would be released later this year.

The appointment of a new director general is in process and the department would begin interviewing candidates soon, he said.

Reported by: South African Government News Service

Business unusual at Public Works

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 02 Jun 2011
Title: Business unusual at Public Works

Pretoria - The Department of Public Works is set to embark on an ambitious programme that will see it invest in repairs and maintenance of government buildings, which will result in huge savings for the state.

The programme, announced by Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde on Wednesday during her inaugural Budget Vote in Parliament, will be undertaken by the department in three years.

"Investment in repair and maintenance, continuous maintenance and construction of new government buildings could generate major savings for the state ... This will also include ensuring the relocation of national departments to state owned buildings where it is feasible to do so," said Mahlangu.

She noted that the leasing portfolio was costing the state a lot of money, where in the past year alone, her department spent billions in leases and functional accommodation for client departments.

"We acknowledge that our lease portfolio will take a while to reduce but in the interim, the department will continue to find ways to structure its current leases such that the socio-economic goals of government are realised including black, women and youth economic empowerment," said the minister.

Mahlangu said the department would invoke the National Infrastructure Maintenance Strategy and the National Contractor Development Programme to target investment in this sector, a move that would also benefit small and emerging contractors.

With regards to the rehabilitation of unused as well as underutilised public buildings, the department will in collaboration with the Department of Higher Education, convert these buildings to provide affordable student accommodation where it is possible.

The upgrading and refurbishment of the HG De Witt building in Tshwane will result in accommodation for approximately 180 students, while the upgrading and refurbishment of Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein will result in accommodation for about 700 students.

"Through this intervention, the department is looking at alleviating the problem of lack of decent student accommodation while creating job opportunities," explained the minister.

The department will also rehabilitate selected military bases, while it is also paying attention to the deteriorating state of the infrastructure at harbours, starting in Cape Town.

Turning the focus to accommodation needs of the South African Police Service, Mahlangu said in the year under review, these will be extensive given the need to fast-track the goal of creating "a safe and secure South African society."

She said infrastructure projects were solid proof of government's commitment to service delivery.

"Furthermore, and with respect to the SAPS portfolio, I wish to announce that in the current financial year, the department will complete the first ever state-of-the-art Forensic Laboratory for SAPS in Cape Town," said the minister.

The department will also launch a campaign to encourage South Africans to reclaim lost or missing immovable assets.

"We will soon launch the Amnesty Campaign aptly named 'Operation Bring Back' in order to encourage South Africans to reclaim lost and/or missing immovable assets. These properties, we believe, were insincerely wrested from the state in the turbulent transitional period following the demise of apartheid and were being unlawfully occupied.

"The significance of the state-owned real estate as a major revenue generator for government cannot be over-emphasised," said Mahlangu.

She said once recovered, the properties will either enhance the department's disposal programme or contribute positively to the Inner City Regeneration programme in revitalising the economy.

Reported by: South African Government News Service