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The vexed question of how higher education ‘fees must fall,’ will probably only be answered late next year, given the disappointingly sparse contents of the interim report by the Commission on Higher Education and Training released by the Presidency yesterday. President Zuma was quick to reduce expectations in his final parliamentary session yesterday, telling questioners that coming up with answers would be a drawn-out process because much needed doing before a policy decision was made. Focussing on what he punted as successful government negotiations with student protest leaders which resulted in exams going ahead, he must have had the volatility of the situation uppermost in mind. While punting the task team that helped reduce and even end the unrest, he studiously avoided saying how much exam disruption there’s been or how many millions of rands have gone up in flames as lecture theatres, cars and buses were destroyed or damaged by the more anarchic protestors. The additional hidden costs in missed learning, lower marks, failures and lost time are immeasurable. The students certainly got the government’s attention. But now it seems the commission is flying solo, complaining of lack of participation from the beneficiaries of higher learning; industry, banks, corporates and organised labour. If the commission’s assertion is even half right, that’s a poor show. Cynically treating the institutions of learning as a production pipeline, installed and maintained by someone else, will come back to bite, impacting on the economy and the corporate bottom line. Pitching in to help solve the current crisis seems a far more pragmatic option. There’s enough alienation between government and the private sector without feeding existing prejudices. – Chris Bateman
By Lizeka Tandwa
Johannesburg – The Fees Commission on Wednesday expressed disappointment with the low level of participation by corporates, industry and the banking sector, it said in its interim report.
“There has been regrettably little participation by the resource-rich entities such as corporates, industry, the banking sector or organised labour, all of which might have been expected to contribute as the production of graduates and an academically prepared workforce is to their direct benefit,” it said in its report to President Jacob Zuma.
The interim report was released by the presidency on Wednesday.
The commission said a few students and student bodies were prepared to engage during its hearings.
“The great majority have either declined to do so or, in some instances, conducted themselves in an aggressive and anarchic fashion towards the commission and its work.”
This however, it said, did not result in any material disruption or delays.
3 of 8 guidelines completed
It received 200 written representations and has listened to more than 50 oral presentations from government departments, NGOs, individuals, private educational providers, universities and colleges, it said.
Three of the commission’s eight set guidelines have been completed, it said.
These included an overview by stakeholders of the commission’s terms of reference, post-school education and training, funding of institutions as well as understanding their operational costs.
It said too many deserving candidates were being excluded by the lack of financial means.
“The state should without delay recognise and implement an obligation to fully fund the very poor,” it recommended.
It said a minority view of participants was that the state was the principal beneficiary of the fruits of higher education and training and should, therefore, repay successful student National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) loans.
It instead said it found that an important influence in favour of the obligation to repay was to self-sustain the funding process.
“Ideally the loan obligation should be collected and enforced through the income tax authorities and not left to Nsfas which has proved inefficient and ineffective in this regard.”
It found that Nsfas’ allocations to institutions were inadequate to cover the number of students who qualified for its funding.
“This forces many institutions to cross-subsidise or top-slice by reducing the amount of funding across the board. Alternatively, this has resulted in an accumulation of historic debt at many institutions. The historic debt is part of the current fee crisis.”
Until a substantial degree of self-funding has been achieved the state should provide bridging finance, it said.
The presidency has given the commission until June 30, 2017, to finalise its report. – News24
Zuma: No free higher education ‘just like that’
By Paul Herman
Cape Town – Students and the public must show patience with regard to the ongoing fees crisis, as government can’t decide on free higher education “just like that”, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
The Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training first had to finish its work before a policy decision could be taken, he told MPs during a question and answer session in the National Assembly.
“There is no one view on this matter – that you can have free education just like that,” he said.
“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.”
Government could not accept the idea of fee-free education simply because students demanded it.
“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.”
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.”
He said the meetings succeeded because it was agreed that students should go back to lectures and write exams.
Zuma announced the release of the commission’s interim report on Wednesday. It covers only three areas: An overview of the terms of reference, post-school education and training funding, and understanding their operations’ costs.
Five areas remained outstanding:
The nature, accessibility, and effectiveness of student funding by government, the private sector and foreign aid;
The meaning of fee-free education;
Alternative sources of funding;
The social, economic, and financial implications of fee-free education;
The feasibility of providing fee-free education and its extent.
The final report is expected by June 30 2017, he said.
Democratic Alliance MP Belinda Bozzoli said the party was disappointed with the interim report. Its findings – that more money was needed – were things the public already knew, she said.
Zuma reiterated his point that government was ready to deal with 2017, and would ensure that no child stayed out of school if they were poor or part of the “missing middle”. – News24
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.