Events seem to be piling up against the forth coming SONA addressed scheduled to take place on Thursday. About 5,000 #FeesmustFall protesters are expected to march on Thursday evening to the Grand Parade in Cape Town as President Jacob Zuma delivers his State of the Nation address.
The protesters are said to be fully ready to do all it takes to break through the heavy security to make sure that President Zuma addresses the fees must fall issue as earlier promised. Of course, with the students camped on Parliament’s doorstep, he cannot ignore the subject.
President Zuma had earlier announced that the government would be giving out the whooping sum of R4.6 billion to address the zero fee-increase for the year and to cover the debts of students who would not be able to re-register for university. The president also promised he would investigate a broader issue of transformation of campuses and free education for all who qualify.
However, concerned South Africans have risen up against the pursuit for a continuous funding of university students by the government. Emeritus Professor Ian Scott of UCT’s Centre for Higher Education Development said it was important to remember that the additional funding was just a temporary fix. Besides, that there were arguably more important priorities, within the education sector.
Experts argue that the country is bound to have more cost base universities exceeding the available. The country would not be able to brace itself against current depressed economic climate as many of the school materials and books required are being imported. Hence, meeting the demand for free education for all students who qualify academically for university entrance is way beyond the government’s means.
Furthermore, department has decried the increasing number of university students over those in technical and vocational education training colleges and the new community colleges. The ministry says this will be detrimental to the nation’s economy as it would later lead to mass unemployment.
The Higher Education and Training Department was trying to expand the Technical Vocational Education and Training system, but there was social resistance to this as most people aspired to a university degree. The ministry therefore advised that university students ensure that they support their degrees with technical skills.
The department also wished to revive the artisan system that has been discarded since the 1990s, but this might take a long time especially as people refer to it as a second-class option. Thus, “covering the funding needs of universities and the student aid system would require a paradigm shift” Scott said. “There is no free lunch, unless we find a radically different system,” he added.
Speaking further against the realization of the fees must fall campaign, Scot said the very low rate of students entering university who ultimately graduated stood at about 50 percent leading to about 50 percent of students being lost. This, according to him, meant that a very high proportion of the country’s subsidy and aid scheme money is not productive.”
“What people are fighting for is an opportunity to have a 50 percent chance of succeeding. Of course, it is the very students who require financial aid who generally have the least effective schooling, and therefore come in at a disadvantage and have a very much higher probability of not succeeding than the wealthier segments.
“It does seem to follow socio-economic lines with depressing regularity,” Scott said.
“My big concern is that in all of this debate we are not talking about how well this money is being used. It’s a major issue.
“If we are losing 50 percent of our students, there’s a very high proportion of our subsidy and our aid scheme money that is not productive.”
He therefore urged the president to call on society intellectual resources to look out for other forms of financial help particularly an enlightened loan scheme that will be bigger than NSFAS, which could make a difference to the country”.