Furthering your education can be an intimidating journey filled with the anxiety of financial burdens. While the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) provides loans and bursaries, not every prospective student qualifies, and not everyone who qualifies will be granted funding. ZIMASA MATIWANE rounded up some alternatives for funding your higher education.
Learnerships are theory-meets-practical study options that provide students with knowledge, skills and workplace experience. As well as receiving free training and a stipend, those who take this route receive a National Qualification Network (NQF) registered qualification. Siphokazi Katsi is currently undergoing a waste water and water reticulation learnership; she said the advantage of her particular learnership is that after the full course she is guaranteed employment. Learnerships take between 12 and 18 months to complete. Unfortunately those over the age of 35 do not qualify.
More information on learnerships.
This type of training is provided by an employer and develops the individual’s skills in a certain sector. Apprenticeships take three to four years to complete and provide would-be artisans with practical skills and work experience, so that they can compete in their chosen industry with confidence. Ntando Ngubane, a trainee electrical artisan, said he gets on-the-job training and is paid a decent salary. Ngubane said production is priority in the industry, hence he works long hours – sometimes seven days a week – which can be hard. What he likes about this route is that apprenticeships are not about books and formulas but about the job and getting it done. Upon completion of the programme, an internationally recognised trade certificate is issued.
More information on apprenticeships.
Bursaries are allocated on the basis of need, and academic performance is also taken into consideration. Prospective and registered students at higher education and training facilities in South Africa are eligible for a variety of bursary schemes. Different bursaries have specific requirements like a student’s financial need and academic abilities. Although many bursaries finance the student for 100% of their costs, there can be a requirement to work for your sponsor afterwards. Ashley Williams said her bursary covered tuition for her Bachelor of Dental Sciences degree, and she only had her books to worry about. However, she had to work in the Eastern Cape for five years because she was funded by the Eastern Cape department of health. Working in a small town for too long can limit skills development due to inadequate facilities, Williams said.
More information on bursaries.
You don’t have to be under 35 or work for your sponsors to secure a student loan as you would for a learnership or some bursaries, but you do need to prove you can pay it back. And don’t forget, there’s also the interest to repay. Thandile Mbambo works as an office assistant, and she financed her office management diploma with a bank loan. She said she did not struggle with university tuition, but the worry of knowing she had debt that was accumulating somewhere was not nice. Mbambo struggled to find employment and it took her a while to start repaying the loan, but she said she would rather have this debt than not have an education, so it was worth it.
More information on loans.
Students who have excelled in their studies can apply for scholarships that cover academic financial needs. Sikhumbuzo Makhanya’s chemical engineering degree was sponsored by a petroleum company. Scholarships are non-repayable, but require the beneficiary to maintain certain average of marks set by the sponsor. Makhanya said the scholarship was a blessing, as not only did it help him to financially, but the fact that he was expected to pass each module with a minimum of 65% pushed him to work hard. However, it was also stressful at times because he was always worrying about maintaining his marks, so that his sponsor wouldn’t stop paying for him.
More information on scholarships.