Corporatisation of student funding a backward step
The Mail & Guardian, (22 December 2016 to 5 January 2017), published an article about a tabled Gazette for Cabinet to approve a partnership of the private sector and government on establishing a new student funding entity called Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAS).
The article titled “Student aid may have a new future” is a result of a Ministerial Task Team report on creation of new a funding model for the “missing middle” and the poor.
The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Comrade Blade Nzimande appointed Sizwe Nxasana, the former FirstRand CEO to chair the task team.
The article says the report seeks to propose that government must donate the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to private capital, as it does not have confidence in NSFAS’s systems to service South African students in need. In the article it is stated that, “given NSFAS’s legacy issues it will be very difficult to restore the confidence of the private sector to start funding NSFAS.”
The latter is a demonstration of how monopoly capitalism arrogance is and that is disgusting.
That tells you simply that private sector is not interested in the well-being of government and the poor, besides benefiting from it in whatever way possible.
NSFAS could be called all sorts of things by those who are not happy with it, but to push it to take a back seat in partnership with private sector after what it has done for poor South Africans, it will be a serious accident of history.
This public-private partnership agreement proposed for NSFAS and new special management companies, called ManCo and FundCo will be an ideological con- tradiction towards the realisation of free education and socialism in South Africa.
A few years back, the Minister of Higher Education and Training commissioned a review of NSFAS in what some of us in the student movement used to call, “the Balintulo Commission”.
At the Sasco 16th National Congress in Durban, Comrade Blade said, “You would all be aware of the ministerial committee reviewing the efficacy of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
I instituted this evaluation shortly after my appointment because it is generally recognised that the scheme has acute shortcomings in providing adequate support for needy students.
“As a result of these shortcomings, poor students and their parents have to resort to undesirable options such as mashonisas to finance their studies.
“This practice perpetuates a cycle of debt in thousands of poor households around the country and needs to come to an end... In the final analysis, the revamped NSFAS must give effect to government’s commitment to progressively introduce free education for the poor up to undergraduate level.”
Therefore with this ISFAP proposal, we need to ask about the Balintulo report and how far NSFAS has moved to respond to it.
Thus I ask, is the establishment of this new scheme a declaration that NSFAS failed?
If yes, then the portfolio on higher education and training in Parliament would have indicated it by now.
If it has not failed, then why reinvent the wheel?
Now that this report is in the public domain, perhaps society and the congress movement, particularly the labour unions should unite in rejecting this new “mashonisa”.
Ideologically the communist party should lead the call in its Financial Sector Campaign and the Battle of ideas Commission, because it will abuse the poor.
The endorsement of this scheme will be ideologically contradicting the very same ANC’s resolution of using the NSFAS to progressively marshal free education for the poor.
If we surrender education to the capitalists to manage, then we would have fully donated ourselves and our ability to fight for socialism.
Lenin was correct in saying that, “Education is one of the component parts of the struggle we are now waging”.
Perhaps the private inves- tors should have some faith in the NSFAS mission of aspiring “to transform NSFAS into an efficient and effective provider of financial aid to students from poor and working class families in a sustainable manner that promotes access to, and success in, higher and further education and training, in pursuit of South Africa’s national and human resource development goals”.
In principal, this proposal is ideological suicide, putting NSFAS in the back seat.
• Sive Madala Gumenge, born in Grahamstown, is the public relations officer of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
A former Sasco Provincial Executive Member in the Western Cape, he describes himself as an aspirant Minister of Culture and Education in South Africa, writing this in his personal capacity as a South African citizen.