NMDS to increase bursary support
THE Ministry of Development Planning is diversifying the National Manpower Development Secretariat (NMDS) bursary portfolio to increase the quota of students sponsored each year.
Since 1978, the government through the Loan Bursary Fund administered by NMDS, has helped many Basotho to further their education on a partial repayment basis. Civil servants are expected to pay back 50 percent while 65 percent is expected from those in the private sector.
Although each of the tertiary institutions is given a quota of students to be sponsored by the NMDS, this has not been based on individual backgrounds but the pass rate, with those with better results getting first priority.
In an interview with the Sunday Express recently, the Minister of Development Planning, Mr Tlohelang Aumane said the NMDS was forced to reject a large number of bursary application as they cannot exceed the set quota. He said by 2019, they would have introduced three more funding techniques, which will enable the government to fund more students.
“We are in a process of diversifying the NMDS portfolio to effectively answer the need for various critical skills in the country. NMDS has been offering bursary loans only, but through this new approach, we intend to add two more methods of funding, which are Interest Free Loans and Loan with Interest. The Bursary Loan will continue to be offered to vulnerable and top performing applicants. In addition, we are going to improve our mechanisms of verifying the capacity or incapacity of parents or guardians to pay fees. This will ensure the limited resources we have are channelled to students from poor families.”
Mr Aumane further explained that some parents may afford paying their children’s fees based on their earnings but may fail to do so due to other pressing commitments. In such scenarios, we can award students from such parents’ loans with a 100 percent repayment upon completion of studies,” he said.
He further explained that if students repeat a year or certain subjects, they would be expected to pay their own fees for the repeated subjects and NMDS can only resume funding the following year.
Mr Aumane said the new strategy will allow them to only pay for vulnerable repeating students on condition that they are hard-working.
“The Loan with Interest facility will cater for students who have to repeat a particular year as we have realised that failure of one or two subjects tended to be the end of the road for students from poor families.
However, we will first consider the performance of such a student before awarding the loan facility. Suppose a student fails one or two subjects but excels in others, or rather fails to write an exam due to unforeseen circumstances, we will pay for them but then they will have pay back the money for those repeated subjects at an interest upon completion of their studies.”
Minister Aumane also mentioned that as part of the revamp process, more attention will be given to technical skills that will support the government to achieve the priority Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the short-term.
“Our funding is also going to be strategic in the sense that, we are looking at various areas including acquiring the technical skills we need for a quick achievement of certain areas of development, particularly those that will ensure quick gains in ending poverty, in line with the No Poverty SDG 1. We are also going to audit our sectors to see the areas where we are struggling in terms of skills such as engineering, climate change, ICT, energy, mining and in the medical field to strengthen those strategic sectors,” Mr Aumane said.
He further explained that the secretariat will also be capacitated with digital systems that would enable students to either apply or renew their contracts online to stop the long queues that are a common feature at the NMDS offices.