Don’t rely on Treasury for free education, warns Nzimande

2015-09-25 12:25
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: DoC

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: DoC

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Additional funds from the National Treasury cannot be solely relied upon to realise the goal of providing free higher education in South Africa.

This was said by Khaye Nkwanyana, spokesperson for Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande. He was responding to concerns and cynicism from opposition parties following Nzimande’s commitment to providing “free higher education for the poor who are deserving to get it”.

Nkwanyana said yesterday that curbing corruption and reaching out to the private sector were also crucial.

“The minister is in favour of fee-free education, it is ANC policy,” he said, adding that the department was proposing that Treasury again expand the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) budget before Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s medium-term budget statement next month.

“But the reality is that we don’t have the budget for free education due to serious competing social needs in the current fiscus. The minister is looking beyond the state – to the private sector for instance – to raise funds for higher education for the NSFAS to have capacity,” he said, adding that the scheme’s allocation was increasingly incrementally every year and now stood at R9.5 billion.

Other institutions like the Public Investment Corporation could also be involved to enable long- term loans to be extended to students so they were not “suffocated” before they even entered the job market.

Nkwanyana warned that corruption in the NSFAS had seriously compromised progress and the announcement of a date for the launch of a forensic investigation was imminent “to determine how millions have been diverted, and how students have become victims of corrupt syndicates”.

The DA and Cope yesterday said it was all very well for Nzimande to make statements about free higher education – which both parties supported – but the crucial issue was where the funds would come from.

The DA said it would write to Nzimande asking that they “work together” to appeal to Nene to reprioritise the medium-term budget to deal with the “massive shortfalls in funding for tertiary education”.

Parliament had estimated that the NSFAS required an additional R51 billion to meet its proposed targets and that “highly ambitious targets” had been set to admit another 2.3 million students to tertiary institutions.

If Nzimande failed to come up with a comprehensive plan, “it is nothing but hollow rhetoric,” said DA MP Belinda Bozzoli.

Cope dismissed Nzimande’s statement as a “cheap tactic” ahead of local elections next year.

“For 21 years, the ruling party has never respected this clause in the Freedom Charter. Instead the government has plunged the country into an economic crisis, so the question is, how will it be funded?” asked spokesperson Dennis Bloem.

Nzimande made his comments about free education at a briefing to announce a three-day summit on the transformation of tertiary education that will be held in the middle of next month. 
Read more on:    blade nzimande  |  nsfas

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