Fees Commission Report: President Zuma must confirm if this is the basis for a new funding model

Please find attached soundbites in EnglishAfrikaans and isiXhosa.

The DA welcomes the Presidency’s eventual release of the Fees Commission Report, after our continued pressure upon it to do so, as well as following our application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
We note that the Report does not endorse fully fee-free education for all, and indeed is explicit in its conclusion that free higher education for all is not required by the Constitution.
The Commission has developed a multi-layered model for recapitalising higher education, across both TVETs and Universities, for reconfiguring NSFAS, and for supporting students who cannot afford Higher Education, whether they are from the poorest backgrounds or middle-level backgrounds, through a combination of loans, bursaries, and scholarships, with the participation of the private sector at all levels.
We welcome the professionalism and richness of the Report and look forward to studying it further.
The President, who has been studying the report for more than two months now, must tell South Africa whether or not this report will form the basis of the ANC government’s new funding model for Higher Education.
Bizarre rumours have been swirling that President Zuma is intending to bypass this multi-million rand report in favour of an amateur, populist funding model that entails the crude introduction of a R40 billion boost to student funding, to be financed through such drastic measures as the undermining of the role of Treasury, the possible cutting of social grants and an increase in VAT, with little consideration given to all the other issues at stake.
Even more concerning is that this model seems to emanate from a student who is also, it is said, the President’s soon-to-be son-in-law.
Ordinarily, these rumours could be dismissed with the contempt they deserve, but we have seen, time and time again, that President Zuma will put his own interests above the best interests of South Africans. If he sees it as being in his interests to give priority to a populist and unsustainable proposal, over a taxpayer-funded, professionally produced Commission, he might well do so. This is a chilling possibility.
The delay in the release of the report has already caused millions of University and TVET students’ considerable distress, as they were left to wonder about financing the start of the 2018 academic year. It has meant that Universities have not been able to set fees for next year. It is time for this uncertainty to end.
The President must publically dismiss the bizarre rumours and confirm whether the recommendations contained in the report will form the basis of a new, sustainable funding model for Higher Education in South Africa.

Fees Commission a delaying tactic by the ANC

The leaked Fees Commission Report indicates that a cost-free learning model at higher education institutions is not possible. It is clear that this commission was a waste of time and most likely a delaying tactic by the ANC government, at a great cost to the taxpayer.
This is an old trick used by the failing ANC as it is easier to move deadlines and change the conversation rather than addressing the root of the problem.
This money could have been better spent on poor students who continue to feel excluded from accessing quality higher education.
DASO is an organisation which represents all students, and our mandate demands that no student is left behind. It is therefore on this basis that we reject the leaked report.
President Zuma’s government is detached from the everyday struggles of poor students and would rather play politics than find solutions to the student’s welfare.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and DASO support a full funding model which will allow free education for the poor and free cost of study subsidy at varying levels of the missing middle. Our model will see funding allocated within certain income brackets per family per annum.
As an example, families earning per annum between:

  • R0 – R200,000 will receive free full cost of study funding for qualifying students
  • R200,000 – R350,000 will receive 66% of the full cost of study funded
  • R350,000 – R500,00 will receive 33% of the full cost of study funded

In the immediate term, DASO will reject any rampant fee increments for the poor and missing middle. Fee increases by tertiary institutions to plug a funding shortfall will only serve to exclude poor students and set them up to fail. Yet tertiary institutions need financial assistance from the ANC government who have caused this crisis due to chronic underfunding of the sector.
NSFAS has been perennially grossly underfunded and this has meant that more students who qualify for funding are excluded. It, therefore, does not make sense to continue raising fees for students who are evidently struggling to pay the prevailing fees struggle.
DASO will continue with its programme of engaging with students at every university campus to ensure that their voices are heard and an acceptable solution is found to the funding crisis. We are organising students across the country to mobilise against the ANC government which will never solve the fees crisis.
The ANC has forgotten the students who deserve a better future. DASO will not forget nor will we stop fighting for the rights of students to ensure they have what they need to achieve their dreams and a better life.

University of Fort Hare fails to provide qualifying students with certificates

A number of students from the University of Fort Hare have not received their graduation certificates as, according to NSFAS, the university failed to submit the students’ claims by the cut-off date.
In previous years, the university’s policy stated that students who qualify for historical debt can sign a loan agreement in order for their debts to be cleared, with students ranging from 2012 – 2016 currently being overlooked.
These are young people who now, despite having surpassed all circumstances and completed their studies, are unable to apply for employment because they do not have their graduation certificates.
The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation understands that education is the cornerstone of liberation and that if we are to eradicate the injustices of the past, our young people must be educated and given the freedom to seek employment in an equal environment.
The continued refusal to distribute certificates traps students in a cycle of poverty and continued injustices. The institution needs to fast track this process; while in the interim, award qualifying students with their certificates.
DASO believes that no academically qualifying South African should be excluded from the opportunity to find employment and we will continue to serve the students of UFH and advocate for their issues.

In a fair society, students would have an equal opportunity to succeed

Madam Speaker,
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice, it is the protection of fundamental human rights – particularly the rights to dignity and decent life.”
Poverty is not natural, it is man-made. It can thus be overcome and eradicated by man-made actions. As such, when we make attempts to reverse the legacy of the past as governments and servants of the people, it is not a favour to anyone, it must happen and should happen. This is a joint responsibility that we all share as South Africans. Our primary mandate as public representatives is to advocate for the people of South Africa and this finds expression in the laws and budgets that we pass.
We find ourselves during a critical time in history, a time that requires the government to remain true to its promises and realisation of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, particularly the right to education.
It is common cause that there is unequal access to resources and infrastructure, which has a direct impact on the level of access to education, lack of success in institutions of higher learning and a lack of inclusive change that works for all and not for some. Often, students are forced to live in undignified conditions, using desperate measures to survive. It cannot be that in a constitutional democracy, many young people are without jobs and skills.
Yet, the Department of Higher Education and Training has underfunded students and institutions of higher learning in relation to the constraints that they face. The increased medium term allocation of R5 billion is unlikely to make a dramatic impact on access to education in institutions.
One of the cornerstones of the Democratic Alliance’s approach to redress is education and skills training. University and TVET college students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds face dire constraints to excelling and completing their courses. Academic success throughout is essential to economic growth and a growing tax base.
A DA run department of higher education would increase the budget to ensure that there is:

  • appropriate subsidies for our institutions of higher learning;
  • stability and change in our TVET colleges;
  • a drastically improved NSFAS system while ensuring that funds are made available for the support of the missing middle; and
  • a restructured Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA’s) so as to ensure that we produce an adequate supply of skilled individuals required by business and the wider economy.

A DA run department would ensure that no student who is academically deserving is denied access in an institution of higher learning because of their circumstances.
In a free society, students would be free to live with dignity whilst pursuing a higher qualification.
In a fair society, students would have an equal opportunity to succeed.
In an opportunity society, success is based on hard work and talent rather than the circumstances of one’s birth.
I thank you.

Higher Education is stagnating

The vast Ponzi scheme that is the ANC-run economy is running out of money. The ANC bottom-feeders who rely on patronage for their well-being are getting anxious. More looting needs to be found to appease them.
Thus, Nuclear Energy must take priority, even if it means bankrupting us all. For only through a huge new scheme like this, can enough be found to mollify those who depend on the “Politics of the Belly”.
Other budget items of unquestionable social good are neglected if they cannot be plundered. Higher Education is one of these. And so, as a sector, it is stagnating.
We might be forgiven for thinking that things are going much better in Higher Education.
Measured against our low standards for stability, “only” a handful of reports of rioting and protests have emerged in the past few months. Registration seems to have gone relatively smoothly, and R1.2 billion in additional funding has been pumped into NSFAS this year with more to come.
But this all hides a darker reality. The public is generally unaware that the fundamentals in this sector remain shaky, if not downright crumbling.
Students are appeased for now, but deep structural weaknesses remain.
The institutional weaknesses resulting from financial neglect will take decades to fix. And new money is needed for this. Instead of new money, the current R5 billion Higher Education boost has mainly been taken from within Higher Education via the Skills Levy – without any guarantees that the skills that the Levy was designed to produce would be forthcoming.
Not only that: an increase in NSFAS funding does not represent a real change in income for Universities and Colleges themselves.
Putting money into NSFAS assists students, of course; but the most NSFAS funding can do for Universities and Colleges themselves is to reduce what is owed to them by students. This is important, but it does not address the fundamentals of the system.
The real indicator of Higher Education financial health is the level of subsidy. Which is a disaster.
University subsidies are far below what is required and will continue to increase at way below the required rate of 8 to 10 percent, putting severe pressure on students, universities and academic staff.
This is the hidden truth of University funding.
On the College side: the R7.4 billion allocated to Colleges (54% of what they actually cost to run) is pitiful.
As a result, the savings and investments of institutions – where they have them – have been reduced, and in some cases completely decimated, over the past two years, to pay for the costs of the demands made upon them.
Several Universities are experiencing severe financial stress. Rescue funding might be needed for some.
So serious are the challenges that the department has reduced its growth targets for the next three years.
One-third of our 900 000 university students – some 300 000 – attend UNISA. But UNISA is now creaking at the seams, plagued by inefficiency, and has had to reduce its student numbers, thus slowing the department’s growth ambitions for Universities.
The Universities are stagnating.
But this is nothing compared to Colleges – planned growth by 2020 is down from R1.2 million to R700 000.
Half a million students will not be offered a College place as planned.
Our TVET Colleges are anyway outdated and stale and students are not flocking to attend them. Built in another era, they flounder in the modern economy, and struggle to find staff with the requisite experience, or students with the requisite school subjects.
The Colleges are stagnating.
The third arm of the department, the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA), are meant to provide us with another route to skills acquisition, and the R13.6 billion they control should go a lot further than it does. But many of the SETAS remain shaky rent-seeking institutions.
The Minister has abandoned all of his plans to restructure the sector until 2020 and nobody knows what will happen then.
The SETAs are stagnating.
In all three sectors of his department Minister Nzimande is managing a holding operation. Perhaps he is looking forward to 2019 when he retires after the ANC loses the election.
So immense are the needs, both educational and financial, of this sector that I suspect he has given up trying to find ways of meeting them. The bold ambitions of the Post-School Education White Paper, are one by one being shelved.
In fact, of course, in a rapidly changing world, stagnation means decay. History rolls on, and Higher Education stays still.
The Commission of Enquiry into Fee Free Higher Education is due to report in a matter of weeks, and its findings are very likely to be controversial.
Fee decisions for 2018 are going to be considered in the middle of this year. Underfunded Universities and Colleges will have no choice but to increase fees by significant amounts. We all know what that means.
The society is already in a state of generalised anger and upheaval. The President is effectively in hiding from his own people. None of this augurs well for the remainder of this year in both Universities and Colleges.
As is the case in our cities, towns and villages, discontent in our Universities and Colleges will probably once again spill over into damaging protests, led by extremely dissatisfied and highly politicised students and possibly staff.
For this ongoing tragedy, we have only the government to blame.
But the Nuclear Deal remains the number one priority for the Bernie Madoff of South Africa – our chief Ponzi scheme owner, President Jacob Zuma. Shame on him.
The DA, by contrast, is committed to a flourishing Higher Education sector, to an end to waste and neglect and to ensuring that our youth are provided with the skills and knowledge to make a real contribution to a growing economy.

Nzimande needs to explain why only 44% of NSFAS applications have been approved to date

In response to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, revealed that only 44% of students who have applied for NSFAS funding for this year have been successful in their efforts to date.
It is deeply concerning that it is nearly May and thousands of students still face uncertainty regarding how they will pay for their studies.
Parliament reopens next week and the Minister must urgently make a ministerial statement addressing the reasons for the unacceptable delay in processing NSFAS applications and what he plans to do to speed up the process.
In 2016 the number of students funded by NSFAS was 470 352. However, to date, only 317 865  students have been funded for 2017, out of an unprecedented 717 477 applications. The Minister needs to explain why fewer students have received funding this year, despite a R37 billion increase in the budget allocated to Higher Education from 2016 to 2017.
Yesterday, in a statement, Minister Nzimande boasted that “[more] than two million students studying at South Africa’s public Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges have been funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) since 2013”.
Although this is a welcome achievement, the Minister simply cannot ignore the fact that so many applications are yet to be processed this year.  There also appear to be severe delays in actually delivering funds to those who have been supported. Exams are coming up in a few weeks while thousands of students across South African tertiary campuses are currently struggling to survive, as they have not received any funding for accommodation, books and food.
This is an appalling state of affairs and must be addressed immediately.
The DA will now submit further Parliamentary questions to ask the Minister to clarify the situation for 2017, and to find out whether his department has approached the universities and TVET colleges to provide assistance to these struggling students.
The majority of students who apply for NSFAS funding come from poor backgrounds, with the financial assistance from NSFAS often being their only source of income to buy food and other necessities. We are concerned about those students from poor backgrounds who did not receive any assistance, or who still wait in limbo to find out whether NSFAS has funded them.
The Department cannot boast about 2 million NSFAS students being funded since 2013, while only 44% of applications received this year have been successful to date.
The DA urges the Minister to immediately intervene, in what can only be described as a humanitarian emergency.

NSFAS must explain non-payment to 200 000 university students

Yesterday, during an oversight visit to the University of Venda by the Higher Education Portfolio Committee, it was revealed that some 200 000 university students across the country have not yet received their NSFAS grants.
The DA will today write to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee, requesting her to urgently summon the NSFAS Chair, Sizwe Nxasana, to the committee to explain how this crisis unfolded.
Yesterday, the Portfolio Committee could not meet on the campus of the University of Venda due to violent protest, triggered by the delays in the payment of NSFAS grants. These grants, distributed through the “sBux” voucher system, are used by thousands of students all over the country to pay for private accommodation, food, books and travel.
A technical problem in NSFAS’s centralised system apparently led to the inability to make these payments.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of students – many from extremely poor backgrounds – have been seriously disadvantaged in the first vital weeks of their studies. Reports of students going hungry on various campuses are rife.
The Committee also received reports of students on TVET campuses, such as the Sekhukhune TVET College in Groblersdal, dropping out as a result of not being able to pay their expenses. Payment of NSFAS funds in TVETs appears to be both cumbersome and slow as well as insufficient in many respects.
The DA was first alerted to problems with the sBux scheme at the beginning of March at the University of Mpumalanga, where the campus was also closed as a result of protests over the NSFAS delays. Our subsequent letter to the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, was never responded to.
The DA believes that this issue has been covered up and that it is only the student protests that has brought it to light.
The DA is extremely concerned about the current state of affairs, especially since this crisis once again affects some of the most vulnerable people in our society – poor young people.
As it stands, there is an entire generation of young people who have been lost because of the poor quality of basic education in South Africa. We cannot allow their opportunity for higher education to also be jeopardised.
We will do everything in our power to try to find out what has led to this crisis and prevent it from escalating