Is free tertiary education a pipe dream?

2016-10-20 06:00

THE meeting of students and the government, including Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, yielded minimal results.

The meeting ended in a war of words, with Nzimande accusing the students of grandstanding before the media, and of shifting the goalposts to suit their agendas.

Students should return to lectures while a funding model to assist the poor is worked out.

The demand for free education has legitimacy when considering the billions squandered through corruption, theft and unauthorised expenditure. The Auditor-General showed that almost R11 billion was lost through irregular expenditure.

Billions have been allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS) and beneficiaries have an obligation to repay loans when they start earning, so other students can be assisted. Statistics on loans granted and repayments should be made available since public money is used.

The pass rate of students receiving NFSAS funding should be monitored. Loans must be taken away from students who perpetually fail, and be given to deserving students who value education.

With our shrinking economy and South Africans already holding the dubious title of being one of the most taxed nations in the world, raising additional funds through taxation to fund free education will remain a challenge.

The questions are whether free tertiary education will be a reality soon or in the distant future, or is it a pipe dream that will never be realised­?

Vijay Surujpal

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