The African National Congress (ANC) has stepped down its promise of giving free education to all citizens, now the party says free education is only for the poor.
The party reiterated that its government is commitment to quality education for all students but pointed out that its earlier promised free education will only be enjoyed by the poor.
This was revealed during Tuesday’s parliamentary debate on fee-free tertiary education as raised by students all across the country in a recently concluded violent protest against fee increase.
These comments on the fate of the SA students following the increased fee echoes Minister for Higher Education and Training Blade Nzminade’s statement when he told the parliament months back that free high education for all is not possible.
The State government currently provides on average 40% of university budgets, which is down from 70% fifteen years ago. In 2011, SA’s estimated higher education expenditure as a percentage of education (including NSFAS) was approximately 12%.
We could recall that President Jacob Zuma said while in Kenya, that the ANC policy never stipulated free education for all, but for the poor and vulnerable, and not the working class who could afford it.
He said it will be very difficult to pay, as a government, for a child of a parent who has every means to pay! It would not make sense. And I don’t think there is any government anywhere in the world which will do so,
“We who have the means must support the system for the benefit of the country. That is what we are saying. That is our position and that is what we are engaging the youth on,” said Zuma as he warned rioting students that even in their “vibrancy” in the agitation for free education; they had to be “responsible” and avoid the destruction of property.
Meanwhile, the ANC said giving free education to the poor and vulnerable would make it easier for the poor to acquire tertiary education.
This, as expected did not go down well with opposition parties who believe free education should be made available for all students at all educational level.
Opposition MPs say the ANC has for years failed to address the higher education crisis.
The ANC-led government has in the meantime recommended that institutions should increase fees by no more than 8 percent for 2017
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande also stated there will be no fee increases for students who qualify for financial aid and the so-called missing middle.