25 April 2012
The South African Students Congress (SASCO) notes the budget vote speech delivered in Parliament yesterday, 24 April, by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hon. Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande. We are encouraged by the Minister's commitment to expanding university infrastructure capacity for teacher education, establishment of the National Information and Application System (NIAS), building and refurbishment of student residence particularly in the historically black institutions, reopening of some teacher colleges in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal provinces, dealing with the terminal academic and administrative challenges in the FET colleges. At this stage we can only cautiously hope for the speedy implementation of these ambitious plans.
SASCO is particularly disappointed at the little and uncoordinated progress made in the implementation of the watershed ANC Polokwane Congress resolution on the progressive realisation of free education until undergraduate level. In the budget vote speech, Minister Nzimande announced that a Working Group has already been established to ‘conduct a study to determine the actual cost of introducing fee-free university education for the poor'. Notwithstanding the fact that it took the Minister almost five years to undertake this study, SASCO believes that the 2010 NSFAS Ministerial Review Committee report has already done the work set for the Working Group. The NSFAS Ministerial Report clearly indicates that—assuming that 25% of the students are from poor and working class background—we needed R9.2 billion in 2010 to fund free education. The focus needs to shift away from the task teams and workings groups to practical issues on how the money is to be generated.
We are disappointed that the budget vote speech is reticent on concrete plans for the building of universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape. The Minister announced that a project team recommended sites in which the main campus and the administrative centre of the universities will be based without announcing how much will be spent for this in addition to the R300 million announced by President Zuma in the 2012 State of the Nation Address. We sincerely expected the Minister to allocate more financial resources to ensure that the universities start with their first intakes as soon as it possible, even earlier than 2014 as announced. We are also disappointed that the process of establishing Medunsa as a stand-alone university is moving at an extremely slow pace. We call upon the Ministry of higher education and training to speed up this process.
We are equally disappointed at lack of plans to strengthen artisan training and incorporating it into FET curricula and to make skills programs offered by SETA's accessible to the rural poor. As we await the announcement of the Ministerial Oversight Committee on Transformation by the ministry, we are saddened by the fact that the ministry is still refusing to appoint Independent Assessors in universities that still have institutionalised forms of racism such as the University of Free State, University of Pretoria, North West University (particularly, Potchefstroom Campus) and the University of Stellenbosch. We hope that the energy of the Minister in disbanding Councils in historically black and financially unstable institutions will be extended to disbanding Councils in previously white and financially stable universities opposed to the transformation agenda.
SASCO calls for a higher education funding model that will be systematic and biased to historically black institutions, so that it does not become a piecemeal intervention based on the mood of the Minister at a particular time. We hope that the Cyril Ramaphosa Review Committee will come with such bold plans and that this will be a product of meaningful consultation with all the stakeholders, particularly students.
Ngoako Selamolela, SASCO President, 071 875 2224
Themba Masondo, SASCO Secretary General, 079 199 3421