Johannesburg – National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students will now only receive their laptops next year owing to the delays in the tendering process.
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, profusely apologised to those who have been affected by the hold-up following the re-advertisement of the tender to supply and deliver laptops in September.
The portable personal computers are aimed for the NSFAS students registered at universities and the Technical, and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges for the 2020 academic year.
Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, Nzimande, said by the closing date of the tender on 21 September, 140 bid proposals were received.
“I am happy to announce that the NSFAS administrator subsequently approved the tender award on 2 November 2020 to five bidders, which will work with NSFAS and our institutions in the delivery of laptops to our students.”
He said NSFAS is in the process of completing the contractual arrangements with all successful service providers, following which the details of the final mutually agreed guidelines will be communicated with all institutions.
“This will then lead to institutions commencing with the procurement of laptops required by the NSFAS funded students,” he said.
He thanked the scheme for finalising this process and congratulated all the companies who were appointed.
“However, given that the procurement process has been concluded much later than originally planned, the laptops will now be distributed in the new academic year, which will now also assist us to deal with severe financial challenges faced by NSFAS,” he said.
He told the media that the delay in providing these laptops is regrettable.
“I want to assure the students that it was not intended but it was very important to ensure that the procurement processes were followed strictly.”
To date, NSFAS has received 650 000 applications for 2021 of which over 69% applications are from females, with males accounting for 31%.
According to the Minister, the scheme is receiving a high volume of applications from South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries amounting to 330 000, as a result of the deaprtment’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Social Development.
KwaZulu-Natal accounts to the highest number of applications as sitting at 157 252 (27%), followed by Gauteng with 119 410 (20%) and Limpopo with 95 091 (16%).
Meanwhile, applications from Western Cape and North Cape remains below expectations.
“We expect this number to increase quite substantially as past experience has shown that it is in the last two weeks of the application cycle when some students tend to apply in greater numbers.”
The department is predicting that applications will increase to over 800 000 for the 2021 cycle by the closing date at end of November 2020.
“However, we remain deeply concerned at the slow and low rate of applications from students with disabilities and I would like to urge them to use this opportunity and apply for a fully comprehensive bursary funding for 2021.”