President Jacob Zuma says the South African government cannot just approve free higher education for SA youths.
Speaking during his final question and answer session with the members of the parliament, the president asks students and the public to show patience as regard the ongoing fees crisis, as government can’t decide on free higher education “just like that”.
He said there’s no one view of settling the issues as the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training had to first finish its work before a policy decision could be taken.
“There is no one view on this matter – that you can have free education just like that.”
“We are saying everybody should wait. There are other processes that are taking place, which, once the commission has concludes its report, we will have to look at.” he added, reiterating that government could not accept the idea of fee-free education simply because students demanded it.
Zuma, however, noted – as he announced the release of an interim report from the commission of inquiry under Judge Jonathan Heher – that no deserving students will be excluded from higher education next year because their families can’t afford the fees.
“It is not an easy situation. It does not mean that if the students were not paying, that everything would be free. Government would have to then budget for that, so it needs to be looked at in different ways.”
The commission’s interim released report on Zuma covers only three areas: An overview of the terms of reference, post-school education and training funding, and understanding their operations’ costs.
He said government was concerned about protests turning violent, and held a meeting with elected student leaders and university management on the subject.
“That’s why government is establishing the task team to engage the situation, with the aim to stop violence, but also to talk to the students and stakeholders to say this was not correct to move in the manner that we were.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said the release of the interim Presidential report on the Higher Education fee crisis is a slap in the face of the thousands of young South Africans who hope to access Higher Education and create a better future for themselves and their families
The party’s Shadow Minister of Higher Education and Training, Belinda Bozzoli, said the Interim report on free higher education is a mere eight pages long and contains no evidence of experts consulted in drawing up the report.
“The report essentially says that there is no money and lots of work needed. This we already know.”
“The report, which the government claimed would provide much needed direction on the current crisis, lacks any firm commitments and leadership. It merely restates the obvious and only confirms the ANC-led government is utterly rudderless and without any clue as to how to fix their self-made crisis,” the DA added.