News | Hope for matrics despite bleak prospects
Despite huge growth in the national matric pass rate of 2010 (up by over 7% from 2009), forecasts suggest that more than half of successful matriculants will not find jobs in South Africa's economy.
Recent studies released in January 2011 project that many matriculants would probably become part of the grim unemployment statistics of South Africa and that school in itself does not prepare learners to enter the labour market.
Evidently a matric certificate is no longer sufficient to guarantee a place in the workforce. Many learners should therefore consider further education as a means to increase their chances of being employed.
Scarce skill areas such as engineering, finance, information technology and other technical industries often offer sought-after positions for trained professionals. A tertiary qualification in one of these areas may be the key to unlocking career potential.
For the majority of South Africa's impoverished youth, higher education appears to be a dream because of personal financial circumstances. However, with the government's increased focus on access to tertiary institutions, financial aid is available to assist a great number of youth with financial need.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) administers loans and bursaries to needy South African youth with the potential to succeed at a public university or Further Education and Training (FET) college. Bursaries are available for specific scarce skill areas, giving youth hands-on experience in sought after industries.
Over the past six years, 3 111 student accountants received NSFAS financial support via the Thuthuka Upliftment Fund Programme (run through the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants). Thousands of teachers are also now actively working in government schools as a result of funds from the Funza Lushaka Bursary Programme. This programme has seen over 20 000 NSFAS awards made to students since its inception in 2007. Bursaries are also available for those interested in training as social workers and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has further made funds available for students with disabilities.
A lack of finances is thus no longer an excuse to cut one's education short.
As bursaries are limited, NSFAS further offers student loans for those who plan to study their first undergraduate university degree or diploma at a public institution. Funds are limited but NSFAS will administer a financial means test to determine eligibility and assist as many students as possible.
For first and continuing studies registration fees, NSFAS is prepared to make advance payments to institutions for students who would normally qualify for a NSFAS study loan. This however is only the case for students who qualify for full NSFAS awards (typically where the EFC or Expected Family Contribution is zero or close to zero) and it is likely that that the student will be excluded from studying or face significant hardship raising funds required at registration time.
"While our function is to manage and make study loans and bursaries available to students in need of our support, we understand the greater role that we have to play in South Africa and need to stand out as a brand of hope and the realisation of dreams", says NSFAS CEO, Ashley Seymour.
For more information on how to access NSFAS funding call 021 763 3232, SMS your question to 32261 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.