Supporting students with disabilities : the impact of the disability grant and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) on students with disabilities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The transition in South Africa has meant that institutions of higher learning have become much more inclusive spaces of many kinds of people who historically found it difficult to access them. In attempting to achieve this inclusion, the state and institutions of higher learning have recognised that inclusion is not simply the removal of racial exclusions. It also requires support for students who in practice cannot take up their studies due to particular constraints. One response has been the establishment of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) which offers financial aid in loans and bursaries to students who cannot afford to study. In the case of students with disabilities, a further form of support is important, namely the state disability grant. NSFAS is effective at ameliorating not only the financial constraints of studying, but also the social and academic barriers that are specific to students with disabilities. The disability grant serves as a general source of income to pay for general expenses, to supplement NSFA funding or to be saved for emergencies. While literature exposes the income, educational and geospatial inequalities between disabled and non-disabled people over history, it highlights the financial, academic, social and structural barriers that disabled students face at university. The research highlights why people with disabilities are the ‘deserving poor’ of development and social assistance. With development being understood as the improvement of well-being or living standards, this research explores the role of the disability grant not as social assistance in alleviating poverty, but as social assistance that is developmental. Thus, just as NSFAS redresses the problems of affordability and disability in higher education, the disability grant needs to improve penetration and expansion to people with chronic illnesses, in order to avoid exclusion errors in the interdepartmental network on poverty reduction.
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