Free education for all on the table, but not just yet - Gordhan

2016-10-05 11:03
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Photo: Bloomberg)

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New York - Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has spoken out on the #FeesMustFall protests at campuses across South Africa, saying that while the government is working towards free education for the poor, it also has other priorities to deal with.

Gordhan is in New York for the South Africa Tomorrow Investor Conference.

He told eNCA that free higher education for all was on the table, but it was difficult to say when this would be. Free higher education for the poor was certainly on the table, he added.

Gordhan said the government cannot only look at student fees, and has other imperatives to deal with, such as investing in infrastructure, the economy, public employment programmes and training young people to give them access to job opportunities.

"At the end of the day the conversation we require is one which says understand all these pressures on government, and build enough trust among different constituencies that government is doing its best at the moment to meet the immediate needs, and let's work together to meet the aspiration."

Student protests have engulfed the country over the past two weeks, with students calling for free tertiary education.

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Speaking to the SABC, Gordhan said the investor conference was important in the country's attempts to create investment prospects and grow the economy.

"If we want more money for poor students who need subsidies for their fees, we need to make sure we have the economic growth that produces the tax revenue which can help us do the things we need to do."

Funding ideas

Speaking about the student protests, Gordhan said the country did not need the type of violence seen on campuses and that there was a solution.

"We have a solution which will meet the needs of the poor students, and the so called 'missing middle' as well, and it's important that students who understand the calculations, who understand the trade-offs that we need between student fees being subsidised on the one hand, and housing and welfare and health and other issues being paid for on the other hand, that they should be part of a constructive conversation."

Gordhan added that maybe the protesting students may have ideas about where to find the money to fund free education - "but you can't do that by throwing stones and petrol bombs".

Gordhan also said the Hawks investigation into him was "mischief in the real sense" and was not doing South Africa any favours.

"The sooner they put this to bed the better for the country and the better for all of us."

Read more on:    pravin gordhan  |  education  |  university fees  |  university protests

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