Zuma: No free higher education 'just like that'

2016-11-23 19:48
President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

President Jacob Zuma. (AFP)

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Cape Town - Students and the public must show patience with regard to the ongoing fees crisis, as government can't decide on free higher education “just like that”, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.

The Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training first had to finish its work before a policy decision could be taken, he told MPs during a question and answer session in the National Assembly.

“There is no one view on this matter - that you can have free education just like that,” he said.

“We are saying everybody should wait. There are other processes that are taking place, which, once the commission has concludes its report, we will have to look at.”

Government could not accept the idea of fee-free education simply because students demanded it.

“It is not an easy situation. It does not mean that if the students were not paying, that everything would be free. Government would have to then budget for that, so it needs to be looked at in different ways.”

He said government was concerned about protests turning violent, and held a meeting with elected student leaders and university management on the subject.

“That’s why government is establishing the task team to engage the situation, with the aim to stop violence, but also to talk to the students and stakeholders to say this was not correct to move in the manner that we were.”

He said the meetings succeeded because it was agreed that students should go back to lectures and write exams.

Zuma announced the release of the commission's interim report on Wednesday. It covers only three areas: An overview of the terms of reference, post-school education and training funding, and understanding their operations' costs.

Five areas remained outstanding:

  • The nature, accessibility, and effectiveness of student funding by government, the private sector and foreign aid;
  • The meaning of fee-free education;
  • Alternative sources of funding;
  • The social, economic, and financial implications of fee-free education;
  • The feasibility of providing fee-free education and its extent.
  • The final report is expected by June 30 2017, he said.

READ: University fees will rise

Democratic Alliance MP Belinda Bozzoli said the party was disappointed with the interim report. Its findings - that more money was needed - were things the public already knew, she said.

Zuma reiterated his point that government was ready to deal with 2017, and would ensure that no child stayed out of school if they were poor or part of the “missing middle”.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  parliament 2016  |  university fees  |  university protests

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