South African Students Congress

Statement on Higher Education Minister's Budget vote

27 May 2011

As the South African Students Congress we welcome the strategic thrust of the Minister of Higher Education's budget vote. Chief among other things that are encouraging is the vigour with which some of the long-held views of the student movement have found expression in the articulations of the Ministry, although at times altered.

We are happy about the removal of students from the Credit Bureaux who owe NSFAS which previously thwarted not only their chances of getting jobs by closed any possibility of them ever repaying their NSFAS debts. We call on institutions to do the same with students that owe them. As an organization we would have preferred that the debts of these students be scrapped entirely because it is clear they are struggling to repay them. We will continue, in the arena of struggle, to advance this perspective.

We are encouraged by the amount of money set aside by the Ministry of Higher Education for the building of residences in universities. We call on the Ministry of Higher Education not to throw this money into tendering but to ensure that the state builds these residences itself, this would be a good example of how the state can build its own internal capacity while at the same time contributing in halting the tenderization of the state which has been at the core of the politics of the New Tendency.

We welcome the decision by the Ministry of Higher Education to take SETA's head on and halt the rampant accumulation path they are on. We call on the Ministry to ensure that SETA's and any other institutions of training work within the parameters of our South Africa's Industrial Policy Plan and of course within the broader framework of an agreed growth path which focuses on job creation and reversing capitalist accumulation through skills development. We are however not pleased by the fact that the Minister decided not to budget sufficient resources for the expansion of FET in comparison to SETA's budget. We also call upon the ministry to investigate the abuse of state resources by established businesses through SETA's.

We welcome the increase in NSFAS funding, despite this, we continue to be of the firm view that the state should impose an education tax on all South Africans that earn top-notch salaries and ensure the immediate implementation of free education until undergraduate level. Although some of the reforms in the arena of NSFAS are laudable, we believe that they suffer the logic which has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of working class youth loitering in the streets excluded and saddled with debt. We are of the firm view that our call for free education is rooted in working class struggles which seek not only to achieve reforms but to build blocks for socialism now.

We are encouraged by the announcement of the de-merger of the University of Limpopo which will result in Medunsa existing as a stand-alone university. We had always warned the previous administration about the unpalatable disaster that this merger would become, but this fell on deaf ears, we also call on the Ministry of Higher Education to study the totality of the mergers and come to a conclusion on which other ones that need intervention.

We welcome the resolve to ensure that there are universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape, and we call on the task teams doing work on this to move swiftly. In the meantime we will continue with student and community struggles that seek to ensure that this is fast-tracked, including our planned marches in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. The dialectic of unity and struggle will apply on this matter, because power concedes nothing without a concerted struggle.

Some of the interventions signalled by this Higher Education Ministry's budget vote are extremely encouraging whilst some will have to require not just unity but struggle from the student movement. We had already said of the Minister of Higher Education and Training in one statement: "Dr Blade Nzimande - is one of the most active, energetic and responsive ministers of the whole Zuma government. He is probably the best minister in the Education cluster since the dawn of democracy".

For details Contact:
Mbulelo Mandlana (President)
071 879 3408
Lazola Ndamase (Secretary General)
082 679 8718