The South African Students’ Congress notes and welcomes the budget speech delivered by the Minister of Finance Cde Malusi Gigaba. We welcome this budget with reservations, in the midst of anxiety from students and parents the budget speech is not clear on a number of issues as it relates to the higher education sector.
We welcome the additional 57 billion rands to cater for the introduction of fee-free education policy which was pronounced by the former President on the 17 December 2017. This additional funding will assist the poor and working class students to access institutions of higher learning regardless of their family financial backgrounds.
This is a major step taken by the government to address unemployment and poverty alleviation through the provision of fee-free education which will accelerate skills development as set out in the National Development Plan.
Consistent with our complimentary and contradictory approach, we are disappointed that the money to pay for this historical advance (introduction of Fee free education) will come from the dry pockets of the working class and the poor. The main objective of the struggle for free quality education waged from generation to another was to relieve the working class and poor from the jaws of loan-sharks not to further place our toiling masses in a debt sentence. The increase of VAT and fuel levy will directly hit hard on the working class and poor.
SASCO has called for an increase of corporate tax by at least 1% and education tax from the rich to fund fee-free education, however, our demand fell on deaf ears. We have called for direct private sector investment into the funding of higher education.
The budget speech lacks urgency as it relates to the building of new student accommodation and refurbishment of old buildings, this is a direct opposite of what the former President had instructed.
Equally the pronouncement made by the Presidency called on the Inter-Ministerial Committee on higher education to deal with the issue of student debt, the fee increments from 0-R600 000 annual family income, however, the budget speech failed to provide a long sustainable solution to the higher education funding crisis.
We call on the Minister of Higher Education and Training to prioritize infrastructure particularly in the TVET sector and the historically disadvantaged institutions. A policy framework on student debt must be urgently tabled to put an end to the uncertainty. We can no longer postpone solution seeking efforts for the relief of students from historic debt chains.
We know too well that the increment in vat and petrol levies will pierce deep into the working class and the poor. The cost of transportation of food produce and general public commuter transport will increase to the detriment of the poor South Africans. The poor consumers will be expected to bear this cost. The so-called zero rate items do not cover educational necessities such as textbooks and other learning and teaching amenities.
The poor have been yet again viciously assaulted with the rich minority merely receiving a wrist slap. The budget speech should have raised corporate tax, increased the personal income tax especially on the rich. Estate duty tax should have been increased. The zero rate items list must be expanded to cover the poor majority.
Our structures on the ground must continue to ensure that all deserving students benefit from the new policy without upfront payment demands.
NSFAS staff Protest
SASCO has learned with devastation of the ongoing NSFAS staff Protest, this protest will have dire consequences on the lives of thousands of students particularly those coming from the working class and poor families. The protest will result in a delay in dispatching of students NSFAS packages (Meals, transport and book allowances). This happens at a time when most universities are on their final week of registration and with the anxiety and lack of direction on historic debt. We maintain our position against the exploitation and casualization of workers.
It is for this reason that, we call on the Department of higher education, NSFAS management, and the trade union to speedily resolve the matter without any further delays.
On the Rally
The NEC will be hosting the organization’s national right to learn campaign rally. The rally is a platform for the organization to communicate its major advances in widening access to higher education, identify key setbacks and outline major areas of focus for the political year. The rally will be held at Walter Sisulu University on the 2nd of March 2018. All SASCO members, supporters, convocants and sympathizers are called upon to join the 20th NEC in this event. The rally will also be used to award various awards to structures of the organization for their hard work and dedication to the plight of the poor and in building a capable organization.
Nomination forms of various categories will be sent to structures through the normal communication channels of the organization.
Issued by the NEC,
Avela Mjajubana: President
071 875 2224
Lwando Majiza: Secretary-General
071 875 2221