Daily Dis­patch

Let’s fo­cus on He­her re­port

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion -

THE re­lease of the He­her Com­mis­sion re­port should have af­forded South Africans a chance to have mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions about ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion – and the costs as­so­ci­ated with it.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma fi­nally re­leased the much-an­tic­i­pated re­port on Mon­day. It was pre­pared by a com­mis­sion headed by re­tired Judge Jonathan He­her – set up by Zuma fol­low­ing the chaotic #FeesMustFall protests which en­gulfed univer­sity cam­puses in 2015. It comes at a time, when re­ports sug­gest that Zuma is planning to an­nounce free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion for stu­dents who come from fam­i­lies who are earn­ing less than R350 000 per an­num. In­ter­est­ingly, the Zuma plan, which is not in­cluded in the He­her Com­mis­sion re­port, will also mark a pol­icy shift for the ANC as none of its con­fer­ences dis­cussed it. The He­her re­port makes a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions, but the key one be­ing that the state does not have the fis­cal ca­pac­ity to af­ford free higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. A com­pro­mise sug­gested by the com­mis­sion is that study­ing at Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (TVET) colleges should be free for all. To make this pos­si­ble, the state would tap into the R50-bil­lion sur­plus of the Un­em­ploy­ment In­sur­ance Fund which could be used to­wards in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment of the TVET colleges.

He­her also sug­gested a cost-shar­ing model be­tween the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate banks, wherein the fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions will pro­vide loans to univer­sity stu­dents. But more im­por­tantly though, the He­her re­port, makes it clear that those who can af­ford to pay for higher ed­u­ca­tion should con­tinue to pay.

From the re­port, it is clear that the com­mis­sion that con­sulted widely and the rec­om­men­da­tions are a fair sum­mary of the work­able op­tions avail­able for gov­ern­ment.

But it seems that Zuma is not in­ter­ested in what the re­port says. Even He­her is not con­fi­dent that the pres­i­dent will im­ple­ment it. He told Me­dia24: “You know he [Zuma] can put our re­port on the top shelf if he wishes and ig­nore it. That is up to him. What the pres­i­dent does about it or doesn’t do about it is en­tirely in his dis­cre­tion”.

It seems that is ex­actly what Zuma in­tends do­ing. Zuma favours the ed­u­ca­tion model sug­gested by his daugh­ter’s ex-boyfriend, Morris Ma­sutha.

Con­ster­na­tion within the Trea­sury over the vi­a­bil­ity of the Ma­sutha model has al­ready led to the res­ig­na­tion of the Trea­sury’s deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral Michael Sachs who was re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try’s bud­get­ing process. The rev­e­la­tion that Ma­sutha was a spy when he led #FeesMustFall protests at Wits, sug­gests that un­der­handed tac­tics could have been used to cre­ate a cri­sis. Could it be that state se­cu­rity ma­nip­u­lated le­git­i­mate stu­dent protests to cre­ate coun­try­wide tur­moil so that Zuma could get an op­por­tu­nity to make pop­ulist pol­icy de­ci­sions? The re­al­ity is that the Ma­sutha plan is dis­tract­ing South Africans from hav­ing a frank con­ver­sa­tion about how the coun­try can en­sure ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion to the thou­sands of young peo­ple who are de­serv­ing but can­not af­ford it.

It is He­her’s re­port we should be de­bat­ing, not the Ma­sutha sideshow.

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