South African Students Congress

SASCO Statement on Budget Vote Speech by Minister Blade Nzimande

9 May 2013

As the South African Students Congress (SASCO), we have noted the budget vote speech delivered by the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande. We were present in Parliament for the presentation and we are making this input after spending some time to analyse the various pronouncements and allocations made in the speech.

We welcome the announcement that the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training will be ready in the coming months as we believe that it has been a while since stakeholders' commented on the Green Paper. We hope that this delay was as a result of the process of inclusion of inputs of various stakeholders in the final document, as the document had a variety of weaknesses more so as it relates to tackling the various problems in our universities.

On Free Education

SASCO will continue to fight for Free Education in South Africa and we will also fight against the use of new trickery terminology such as the now emergent higher education ministerial term - 'Fee-Free Education.'

It is an unpleasant surprise to us that the minister says he is still studying recommendations of some Working Group report on the so-called 'Fee-Free Education', whilst he quotes the ANC Mangaung resolution on it. By this statement it so appears that the ANC Mangaung conference was tricked into taking a resolution on 'Fee-Free Education', which is based on recommendations that are unknown as they are under investigation by the minister, not by public or the ANC. We believe that this is a worse form of cheating and it is sad that it is done at the expense of students from poor backgrounds.

We believe that the minister should proceed with the implementation of the Polokwane resolution on Free Education, which constituted the basis of the ANC's 2009 Elections Manifesto, which the current administration was elected to fulfil.

On FET Colleges

We welcome the allocation of R17.4 billion, which is about half of the overall departmental budget of R34.3 billion for 2013/14 Mid-term Expenditure Framework for FET Colleges. Whilst noting the fact that working with SAICA, accountants have been appointed as Chief Financial Officers (CFO's) in almost all the colleges, we however continue to see rampant abuse of finances by college managements. We thus believe that this allocation should be properly monitored so that it does not end in pockets of college managers like the previous allocations.

The state of governance in our colleges is very concerning and it is very worrisome that many colleges are still under administration, with no legitimate student representative councils. Proper governance in the colleges is a very critical component of the programme to make FET colleges institutions of choice in the country.

The problem of unqualified and or poor qualified lectures in our colleges continues to be very disturbing hence we welcome efforts in addressing it. We welcome the finalisation of the Policy on the Professional Qualifications for Lecturers in Technical and Vocational Education and Training and we will await its publishing for comment.

As we welcome the intervention to ensure that certificates are released for FET students who have not been getting their results; we are however concerned that the students are still faced with challenges of lack of results, thus impacting their academic progression. We are also concerned that no plan has been pronounced by the minister to ensure that question papers do not leak anymore. We therefore call upon the ministry to ensure that security measures are strengthened in this regard.

On Universities in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape

We note the snail progress made in the establishment of the two new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape. We believe that the R2.1 billion allocation, which will be spent over the next three years is very little.

We welcome the fact that the legislative process of these institutions will soon happen as announced and that there would be enrolments in 2014 for certain faculties. As SASCO we are very interested in the actual building of these universities, so that we do not legislate NIHE's and claim that we have created new universities for enrolment in 2014. This is why we are saddened by the fact that instead of fast-tracking the process the department is opting to run a raffle competition of architects on the structures of these institutions.

On Funding Model and Student Accommodation

As an organisation we are eagerly awaiting the report of the Ministerial Committee on the funding model of universities. We welcome that Ministerial Committee's report will soon be published for comment and that the university funding framework will from then be transformed. We believe that this framework should be biased towards historically disadvantaged institutions of higher learning.

SASCO welcomes the publishing of the policy on student accommodation in universities. We further note R1.652 billion allocated for the building and refurbishment of residences, with 86 % of this funding allocated to previous disadvantaged institutions. In as much as this is very noble of the ministry, this is nonetheless an insignificant drop in the ocean considering the backlog in our student accommodations. Even Minister Nzimande on the 29 February 2012 acknowledged that to "take care of the current backlog without adding any new infrastructure will require R4.4 billion as at September 2011."

For more information contact:
Ngoako Selamolela, SASCO President, 0718752224
Themba Masondo, SASCO Secretary General, 0791993421