By Hon Professor Msimang, MP
I doubt that this department has a good story to tell after the 2015 academic year saw massive number of students embarking on what they proclaim is their right following the ANC government‘s failure to fulfil its promises made to the people of this country, still two decades later. The FeesMustFall protest forced this department and government to act after students had resorted to disruptions and violence, which brought higher education and training to a standstill last year. But, yet again in 2016 the fees have not fallen. The NSFAS is not a bursary but a loan.
This kind of action threatens the National Development Plan. Now, one is left thinking when will the National Treasury and the Department of Higher Education and Training be concluding its work of finding funds so that we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel and to prevent more panic and chaos amongst, mostly the needy and deserving students? With little commitment on this burning issue, the reduction of drop-outs students as outlined in the NDP will be just a wish.
We would like to say to the government the university education is forbiddingly expensive. However as far as South Africa is concerned the government is largely responsible for the spiralling university costs. Back in 1994 this country had 115 colleges of education. These were ideal for teacher training because teaching is a practical profession not geared towards university training which is more theoretical and research inclined. The same could be said of nursing which by its very nature needs to be near a hospital because the ward is your research laboratory.
Despite this practical nature of these professions the ANC led government decided to close down all these facilities and left the university to be the only channel to follow for all post-school qualifications. Most of the 115 teacher training colleges charged their students less than half of what is charged by universities. With regard to student nurses, rather than pay any fees, they were the ones who were paid a monthly stipend by the nursing colleges. In fact South Africa is the only country in the world which made the university the only avenue for post-school education and training.
What the country needs are more artisans than graduates. Why is it necessary for a plumber or electrician to have a university degree? As things stand, many of the graduates are told by prospective employers that they are over qualified for their purpose.
I would even argue that the current Minister, Hon Nzimande acknowledges some of these facts. For instance you have reconfigured many of the so called community colleges also known as FET colleges into TVET colleges (i.e. technical and vocational colleges)
But Hon Minister what about ‘zero fees increase’ going forward? Will the university sector be invaded by angry protestors again next year? Presently nobody knows for sure what is in store for students and universities come 2017.
I thank you
Prof CT Msimang