Government is committed to progressively realise free post-school education for the poor and working class and assisting middle class families.
“This is demonstrated by the creation of the Presidential Commission of inquiry into higher education and training funding, which includes universities, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, as well as the substantial increases in funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme since 2010,” said Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande during a special briefing recently.
The Minister said the task of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry is to realise government’s long-term goal of enabling South Africans to access higher education irrespective of their background.
The commission is currently busy with public hearings on the issue of higher education. Stakeholders from government, academia, student representatives, political formations and other education role players have all been invited to speak at the public hearings which are taking place in various parts of the country.
“Government is alive to the legitimate cries of students regarding fees and to those of the universities who must continue to pay for specialist books and equipment in foreign currency and ensure that academic, support and service staff are adequately paid for their work.”
The Minister said starving universities of funding is not the way to go.
“This is effectively what another across-the-board fee rise moratorium against the current fiscal backdrop would mean at this point.”
He added while the commission does its work in developing proposals for a long-term funding model, universities will not be able to operate with less funds than what they already have.
“Everything is more expensive today than it was this time last year.”
The commission is expected to complete its work by 30 June 2017. Once their work is complete, government will have a better idea of the challenges in the higher education sector, and this will allow government to respond appropriately.