Pan­dor to spend R67bn on ed­u­ca­tion

The Mercury - - NEWS - Mayibongwe Maqhina

THE gov­ern­ment will spend a whop­ping R67 bil­lion on postschool ed­u­ca­tion, with at least R33bn be­ing al­lo­cated to­wards the newly in­tro­duced free higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor was brief­ing the me­dia yes­ter­day be­fore tabling her depart­ment’s R89.9bn bud­get in the Na­tional Assem­bly.

She said R20.5bn was al­lo­cated to the Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), R10.7bn for Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (TVET) col­leges, R38.6bn for uni­ver­si­ties, R16.9bn for skills de­vel­op­ment and R2.3bn for com­mu­nity and ed­u­ca­tion train­ing col­leges.

Pan­dor said her depart­ment ex­pected 84 000 first-time univer­sity stu­dents to be fully funded this year. A fur­ther 190 000 in all other years of study would be funded at the “av­er­age full cost of study”.

“This mas­sive in­jec­tion of stu­dent fund­ing sup­port un­der the new bur­sary scheme is also com­bined with a gov­ern­ment com­mit­ment to in­crease the core fund­ing for uni­ver­si­ties and TVET col­leges to 1% of GDP over a five-year pe­riod‚” Pan­dor said.

How­ever, she said the free ed­u­ca­tion, meant for stu­dents from house­holds with an an­nual in­come of less than R350 000, did not pro­vide for post­grad­u­ate stu­dents.

“There has to be at­ten­tion to the im­prove­ment of fund­ing post-grad­u­ate stu­dents… I think we need to en­sure we do pro­vide ad­e­quate re­sources,” Pan­dor said.

“My sense is that it is one of the do­mains in which there is sig­nif­i­cant pos­si­bil­ity for part­ner­ship with the pri­vate sec­tor.

“Other coun­tries have done this well. It is an area we could explore,” Pan­dor added.

NSFAS chief ex­ec­u­tive Steven Zwane said they had re­ceived up to 420 000 ap­pli­ca­tions – way more than the 110 000 re­ceived by the end of Novem­ber last year.

“We do know who qual­i­fies and meets the fund­ing cri­te­ria of NSFAS. What we are now do­ing is to make sure that the data that we have matches the data of regis­tra­tion at in­sti­tu­tions to make sure that we quan­tify those num­bers ef­fec­tively,” Zwane said.

He said all qual­i­fy­ing stu­dents would be paid by the end of the month.

The DA’s Belinda Boz­zoli said the hasty de­ci­sion on free ed­u­ca­tion had led thou­sands of stu­dents to be­lieve they would be funded, when it was not the case six months later.

Boz­zoli said the an­nounce­ment was short-term and a pop­ulist one. She ques­tioned what would hap­pen to the fund­ing when it tre­bled in three years time.

Sin­cere

The EFF’s Hlengiwe Hlophe-Mkalipi said the ANC-led gov­ern­ment was not sin­cere about free ed­u­ca­tion.

She said it was shock­ing that NSFAS has not paid all stu­dents five months into the cal­en­dar year – leav­ing many stu­dents with­out study ma­te­ri­als, meals and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Hlophe-Mkalipi said the EFF’s call for free ed­u­ca­tion was to ben­e­fit all, not just those from house­holds earn­ing less than R350 000 a year.

“One year at univer­sity can cost up to R100 000 if you in­clude ev­ery­thing. Fees are half the prob­lem,” she charged.

Pan­dor said the depart­ment was work­ing with NSFAS to ad­dress chal­lenges in ad­min­is­tra­tion of the bur­sary scheme.

“We will also con­tinue with the pi­lot of a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship ini­tia­tive known as the Ikusasa Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Pro­gramme that is be­ing of­fered in 12 uni­ver­si­ties and one TVET col­lege this year, and is sup­port­ing more than 5 000 stu­dents,” Pan­dor said.

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