‘The elite will have uni­ver­si­ties to them­selves’


SOME of the rec­om­men­da­tions of the He­her com­mis­sion into the fea­si­bil­ity of free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion were di­vid­ing South Africans, stu­dent ac­tivist Bonginkosi Khany­ile said yes­ter­day.

The com­mis­sion, chaired by Judge Jonathan Arthur He­her, was es­tab­lished by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in Jan­uary last year af­ter vi­o­lent stu­dent protests for free ed­u­ca­tion.

The re­port, re­leased yes­ter­day, sug­gested South Africa could not af­ford free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion for all, but rec­om­mended free stud­ies for tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing (TVET) colleges.

EFF-aligned Khany­ile tore into the re­port and its rec­om­men­da­tions, say­ing it sought to con­fine poor and marginalised black stu­dents to ar­ti­sanry.

“The com­mis­sion is lean­ing to­wards fund­ing TVET ed­u­ca­tion. If that is the case, then this will mean that the black and the poor will be con­fined to TVETs, while the white and the elite will have uni­ver­si­ties to them­selves.

“This will mean that de­spite one’s aca­demic achieve­ments the poor will be forced to be­come ar­ti­sans,” Khany­ile said.

He said the coun­try had money for free ed­u­ca­tion, but it was a ques­tion of pri­ori­ti­sa­tion.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions of the com­mis­sion were that the gov­ern­ment in­crease its ex- pen­di­ture on higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to at least 1% of the coun­try’s GDP, in line with com­pa­ra­ble economies. The TVET col­lege fund­ing, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, would come in the form of grants that cover the full cost of study and that no stu­dent should be par­tially funded.

The com­mis­sion rec­om­mended all un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate stu­dents study­ing at pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties and colleges, re­gard­less of their fam­ily back­ground, be funded through a cost-shar­ing model of gov­ern­ment-guar­an­teed in­come-con­tin­gency loans sourced from com­mer­cial banks.

Through this model, the com­mis­sion rec­om­mended com­mer­cial banks is­sue gov­ern­ment-guar­an­teed loans to the stu­dents payable by the stu­dent on grad­u­a­tion and at­tain­ment of a spe­cific in­come thresh­old.

Should the stu­dent fail to reach the re­quired in­come thresh­old, the gov­ern­ment would bear the sec­ondary li­a­bil­ity. The col­lec­tion and re­cov­ery of the loan would be un­der­taken by Sars.

Sandile Dlamini, the SA Stu­dents’ Congress (Sasco)-aligned SRC pres­i­dent at the Man­go­suthu Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, said it was wrong to con­sider only TVET colleges for free ed­u­ca­tion.

“These are just rec­om­men­da­tions of a re­port so with­out quot­ing the pres­i­dent out of con­text, let’s wait for him to pro­nounce once he is done with con­sul­ta­tion. We are to­tally against these rec­om­men­da­tions,” Dlamini said.

Sandile Zondi, UKZN’s Sasco-aligned SRC pres­i­dent, said he had not read the re­port and asked to be called af­ter 5pm. When he was called again, he said he was in a meet­ing.

The in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee on higher ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing led by Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe and the pres­i­den­tial fis­cal com­mit­tee led by Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba were pro­cess­ing the re­port.

The pres­i­dent said he would make a pro­nounce­ment on the re­port once the min­is­ters had con­cluded their work.

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