Zuma pledges R2.5bn for FET colleges

2012-04-04 10:41

President Jacob Zuma has announced that R2.5 billion will be made available to expand and renovate South Africa’s beleaguered Further Education and Training (FET) colleges.

Zuma’s announcement was received with applause from principals of the country’s 50 FET colleges, who have gathered for a high-level summit with Zuma in Pretoria.

“We are sending out a strong message that, while universities and universities of technology are important, FET colleges are equally important. Universities are important in any economy, but the example of successful industrialised economies, such as Germany, all point to the importance of vocational training,” said Zuma.

Zuma also addressed negative perceptions of FET colleges, saying “we must change the mindset in our society and enable FET colleges to become institutions of choice so that we can obtain much needed technical skills”.

“We want school-leavers, including the disheartened ones who are standing on street corners with no hope, to be able to come back to higher education,” said Zuma.

Referencing the focus on infrastructure development in his state of the nation address, Zuma said the relevance of FET colleges in infrastructure development “cannot be overstated”.

“The construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure ... require the kind of skills that FET colleges are well equipped to provide,” said Zuma.

In January this year, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande released a green paper which set the target of having 4 million people enrolled in the post-school sector by 2030, a six-fold increase.

FET colleges would have to be responsible for absorbing most of this increased target, which would entail a drastic expansion of infrastructure.

But the Green Paper also noted the serious problems facing FET colleges, which it described as “mainly weak institutions”.

The paper noted that, at their current capacity, FET colleges can “neither absorb significantly larger numbers of students nor achieve acceptable levels of throughput (completion)”.

Nzimande said today’s meeting with FET principals was an indication of how serious government was to effect change in the FET sector.

Zuma said he hoped that the engagement with the principals, which is closed to the media, would be a “highly interactive session”.

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