Call for free education more relevant than ever before - deputy minister

2016-11-10 22:00
Mduduzi Manana with recoveries agent Amantle Mdekazi. (Tammy Petersen)

Mduduzi Manana with recoveries agent Amantle Mdekazi. (Tammy Petersen)

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Cape Town - The call for free education is more relevant now than ever before, Higher Education and Training Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana said on Thursday.

"I am encouraged by this struggle. It was one we had [when I was a student leader], but it was not as radical. It clearly shows that students are now seeing the value in education and [it] has them demanding access," he said at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme's (Nsfas) 25th anniversary commemoration in Wynberg.

"I believe we will one day arrive at a point in SA where we will be able to implement free higher education for the poor and middle class. And I think it will be much sooner than may be expected."

He said that there had been no fee increase in the current year and the next showed government's commitment to resolving the issue, pointing out that Joe Public and the universities had to foot the bill.

"For free education, somebody somewhere must pay. And usually it's the taxpayers that have to carry it."

Collaboration between government and student leaders could result in suitable solutions, Manana said.

"But education can't be the sole responsibility of government alone. What is the contribution of corporate SA? It should be playing a role in the education of African children," he insisted, pointing out that most graduates eventually end up working in the private sector.

"The call is noble and welcomed. Government is not resisting."

Outstanding bill paid

He said through Nsfas, government has over the past 25 years spent R59bn on the education of 1.5 million needy students.

Manana visited the Nsfas call centre on Thursday, where he spoke to the recovery agents who phone qualified students to help them make payment arrangements.

He made a special phone call to a man who graduated in 1998 but failed to pay back his student loan until this week.

Following the Fees Must Fall protests and appeals from Nsfas for past students to pay back the money loaned to them through the scheme to allow new beneficiaries the opportunity to study, the man on Wednesday paid his entire outstanding bill of R19 000.

"He also feels he is in a better position now and said sorry that he took so long to pay," Manana said after the conversation.

Manana said there are 20 days to go before applications for student loans close, and wished students writing their exams "after all that has been experienced in this last academic year" well.

Read more on:    nsfas  |  mduduzi manana  |  university fees

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