Quality higher education is key to any developing and industrialized state. Even more essential however is the technical and vocational education because it is this sector of education which produces highly skilled workforce which is a driver of economic growth.
It is unfortunate that this basic fact did not dawn on the minds of the South African government until 2015, more than 20 years into democracy. Only in 2014 was a white paper on higher education and training released with a focus on production of post school graduates which would have adequate skills to meet the current and future needs of the developing economy and society.
Based on these objectives of the White Paper, the HET department took over the Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges from the jurisdiction of Basic Education and converted them into technical and vocational education and training TVET Colleges.
To bolster this turning point two very significant resolutions were taken firstly to set aside ten universities to offer TVET lecturing qualifications by 2019 so as to support the quality of lecturing.
Secondly, the building of new TVET campuses and student accommodation was given priority. This was to help South Africa realise the proposal in the National Development Plan which stipulated that the number of technicians and artisans enrolled every year should increase from 670 455 in 2013 to 1, 238 million in 2019. The IFP complimented the Department believing that it was leading the education sector in the right trajectory. But that was only in 2015/16.
After only a single year of apparent commitment to growing and expanding this sector, the government has made a right about turn. In the 2017/18 budget that is considered today the budget for this sector has been drastically cut with dire consequences for learners in this sector. For instance, the available funding covers 62% of all students and 38% are not funded. The building of more campuses and the relevant infrastructure is put on hold.
There are few TVET Colleges that have qualified lecturers with adequate teaching and technical skills, and this is affecting the through-put of such colleges very negatively. This is simply not commensurate with the NDP targets. In fact, it leads one to the conclusion that the government is not wholly committed to this sector which is why it received attention only in 2015.
In this presentation, I have focused only in the situation in the TVET college sector. However, this does not imply that there are no discrepancies in other sectors of the higher education system. I only concentrated on the TVET college sector because of its significance in producing the workforce that is aligns to the needs of the labour markets thus growing the economy and reducing unemployment.
The IFP supports this budget.
I thank you.