Minister Nzimande should clarify the defunding of key teaching and nursing courses

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, to explain the reasons behind NSFAS’s canning of funding for key study areas, crucial to today’s functioning of our economy, most notable nursing and teaching.

In the release of a circular (see here) that went out earlier this week, NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo, announced the defunding of the following key areas of study:

  • Legacy two-year diplomas
  • Bachelor of Education
  • Bachelor of Nursing Science
  • Overall funding of Post-Graduate qualification

While Nongogo has now clarified that these funding cuts will not relate to undergraduate studies, it is still concerning that postgraduate studies will not be funded. Particularly related to nursing and teaching.

It is shocking to note that in line with the crucial shortages of both teachers and nurses, especially during the covid-19 pandemic, that the Department has decided to remove funding in these key areas. In addition, research, science and innovation are crucial to getting ahead of the pandemic for future economic or social challenges. Researchers and scientists are playing a crucial role in combatting today’s health pandemic, yet the Department aims to defund the future development of these critical postgraduate qualifications.

The above-mentioned removal of key courses is in complete contradiction to the Critical Skills List (see here). The list highlights the following critical skills, which are directly related to the courses NSFAS has decided to defund:

  • Engineering manager (requiring post-graduate qualification)
  • General medical practitioner (requiring postgraduate qualification).
  • Registered nurse for community health (requiring postgraduate qualification)
  • Registered mental health nurse (requiring postgraduate qualification).
  • University lecturer (requiring postgraduate qualification).

Earlier this week, NSFAS released a media statement (see here) in response to the outrage regarding their defunding plans for key study areas. The NSFAS statement response states that in 2016, the Department of Higher Education Science and Technology Minister Nzimande first introduced the phasing out of certain “legacy qualifications”. 2016 is however outdated and the skills that might have not been in demand then is definitely in demand now.

The Minister must re-evaluate what he views as legacy qualifications to ensure that the university curriculum is complimentary to the needs of the economy. Additionally, he must give clear communication about these phasing out plans. There is too much confusing and unclear communication from NSFAS, which leaves students and the community out in the dark. Students and industries need clarity on what courses will be replaced with a similar or potentially more relevant courses or what will be phased out altogether, and the relevant implications of such a decision.

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