Towards the Nationalization of Student Affairs in South Africa

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In 1955 the French Ministry of Education established the Centre National des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (CNOUS) or the French National Centre for Student Services with a mandate to improve the conditions of student life for students studying in France. The center was established on the principle of equal access and equal opportunity to provide an equal chance for students to achieve success in their chosen study destination.

CNOUS situated in Paris has been regionalized and localized through the establishment of 28 regional CROUS centers throughout France and 16 CLOUS centers. By doing so, the state has effectively taken the responsibility to provide all the non-academic and social welfare and support needs of students out of the jurisdiction of colleges and universities to the center for student services.

CNOUS is responsible for Student Financial Aid (French NSFAS), student accommodation, cafeterias and restaurants, vendors and kiosks, laundry services, student travel and transportation, health and counseling services, student life and cultural activities, library and resource centers, and other student-related services. The CNOUS Financial Aid is sustainable through the revenue generated by the various services offered by CNOUS through its regional CROUS and CLOUS centers.

The CNOUS Model means that Student Affairs and Student Support Services operates as a national competency focused on the improvement of the quality of life for students across France irrespective of institutional affiliation. Taking away the “burden of Student Affairs” provides the colleges and universities the space to focus on their core business of teaching, research and innovation.

The application of the CNOUS Model in South Africa will benefit all students across the higher education system and equalize access to student support services for both TVET colleges and universities in South Africa. With TVET colleges having a dire shortage of student services staff and facilities (e,g. campus clinics, libraries and sports facilities), the CNOUS Model will rationalize resources equitably for improved conditions of student life.

The establishment of the South African Student Support Services Agency (SASSS Agency) will become an instrument for the nationalization of the Student Affairs/Student Support Services function in South Africa. This bold but innovative intervention will provide student communities with a sense of equal access and opportunity to both institutional and municipality infrastructure and resources for their much-needed student support.

The SASSS Agency will incorporate the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NASFAS) and will be responsible for all Student Affairs functions including student accommodation, cafeterias and restaurants, vendors and kiosks, laundry services, student travel & transportation, health and counseling services, student life and cultural activities, library and resource centers, and other student-related servicesces.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology will be empowered by legislation to appoint the SASSS Agency Board, CEO and Executives who will be responsible for the National SASSS Agency to be based in the City of Tshwane.

The SASSS Agency will also have SASSS Regional Centres including the following: Gauteng/Free State, Limpopo/Mpumalanga, North West/Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal Regions. Each Student City (Metros) will have a Dean of the City with his/her Local SASSS Agency and support staff. Each or a combination of medium/small towns have their appointed Dean of the Town with his/her Local SASSS Agency and support staff.

This proposal will no doubt bring about change within the Student Affairs fraternity in South Africa. In the same way as services like Social Development are nationalized and regionalized, there is a need for the government to innovate a system that will put the interest of the students first, above our individual institutional affiliation.