The announcement followed a meeting between Pandor and NSFAS administrator Dr Randall Carolissen in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“The decision to open the applications was taken after a process of testing the 2019 applications with a focus group of high school learners yielded positive results in terms of accessibility and user friendliness,” said a statement from the Higher Education and Training Department.
NSFAS had put in place a comprehensive communications plan, which involved partnering with institutions of higher learning and training, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), community structures and other organisations to ensure that all eligible students were reached, the department said.
With regard to progress made in resolving other NSFAS issues, they had deployed staff to all institutions to facilitate the process of addressing the bottlenecks that have resulted from a range of factors.
“The necessary funds are available and steady progress is being made in getting the student support to the qualifying students.
“NSFAS has welcomed the enormous support from institutions and student representative councils (SRCs) at universities and TVET colleges in clearing bottlenecks to the disbursement of funds,” said the statement.
In this regard, of the 273 000 first-time students at TVET colleges and universities, 211 000 have received the relevant funds, while close to 239 000 of the 241 000 returning students have been successfully linked to the system, according to the statement.
Students have been urged to sign outstanding NSFAS bursary agreements to ensure that their 2019 application proceeds smoothly.
Pandor called on all students to make sure they informed NSFAS of any changes in contact details, particularly cellphone numbers, “as this is the primary communication tool to inform students of the disbursement of funds”.
MyNSFAS Online portal was also available for students to update their details immediately.
Pandor urged students, who were receiving their backdated funds, to use them wisely to settle outstanding arrears and focus on their studies.
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The maximum waiting period before getting a notice of acknowledgement once a student has applied will be a week.
Should a student not receive the acknowledgement, they are requested to call NSFAS’ toll free call centre on 08000 67327.