ANALYSIS | Student protests: Austerity, higher education and a spectacular failure of imagination

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A tyre burns on Empire Road in Johannesburg amid student protests outside Wits University on 10 March 2021.
A tyre burns on Empire Road in Johannesburg amid student protests outside Wits University on 10 March 2021.
Kayleen Morgan

Relying on NSFAS is not sustainable and the situation where thousands of students are turned away while others are drowning in debt is untenable, writes Salim Vally.

The misplaced hope by university administrations that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) would solve the problem of affordability and the financial inclusion of students meant kicking the can further down the road. After Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's February budget, the can is now in the next neighbourhood.

Mboweni's austerity measures means the higher education department will get R24.6 billion less over the medium-term expenditure framework. This includes R6.8 billion less for NSFAS and R5 billion less for university subsidies. This despite raising VAT – a regressive tax on largely the poor and the middle-class – ostensibly to pay for access to higher education.

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