CONSIDERATION OF THE REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ON CONSIDERATION OF THE BUDGET VOTE 17: HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The successes of this generation will be measured against their ability to respond to the global phenomena of their time: their competence to participate in the race to industrialise and to respond to the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, which all South Africans require for online learning and remote working.
In this light, the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology (DHET) plays a crucial role in equipping young people with the necessary tools to participate effectively in educational and economic activities during Covid-19.
The creation of a competent workforce, produced by various education and training centres, aligns with the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP), the National Skills Development Plan 2030 (NSDP), the Human Resource Development Strategy for SA (HRDS-SA) and more broadly, the National Development Plan (NDP). Therefore, matters concerning Budget Vote 17 are cross-cutting. The topic of education goes beyond employment; the education of our people has to ensure that skills development aligns with the demands of the job market, so that issues of representativeness in economic activities are addressed. Education also speaks to creating a competent workforce and improving state capacity.
However, there are still shortfalls in implementing provisions. First, the anticipated collaboration between the National Treasury and the DHET on policy and funding options that would inform the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) is not yet underway. This limits the potential for better-coordinated outputs, which are required particularly in taking a multi-stakeholder approach to respond to Covid-19’s impact.
In addition to the above limitation, the TVET budget, in keeping with the inflation rate, has decreased, while the Infrastructure Efficiency Grant is projected to decrease by R168 million in 2023/24. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, reducing the Infrastructure Efficiency Grant may have implications on adopting strategic 4IR technologies, which have become indispensable in the era of online learning and remote working.
Furthermore, owing to Covid-19 and the ensuing socio-economic crises, the DHET’s five-year Strategic Plan was revised. Targets in the number of student enrolments at TVET colleges were reduced by 90 000, whereas the number of students enrolled at the CET Colleges were reduced by over 166 000. Even though these adjustments hold prospects for enhancing substantive outputs rather than quantity, on the one hand, the exclusion of over 250 000 students in total will affect students from previously disadvantaged groups the most. On the other hand, this measure will reinforce existing inequalities in the country as a result.
On Budget Vote 17, concerns remain around the governance of funds and accountability. The Government-wide Monitoring and Evaluation needs to protect our democracy and the future of the youth by ensuring that funds that are reserved for education and training purposes – their future – are not misused for personal gain through corrupt practices. While the IFP supports Private-Public Partnerships in line with improving the quality of life of all South Africans, the responsibility is on the state to protect learners within the education system from very high residence fees, as this increases student debt, which threatens to reverse efforts made towards inclusivity in education.
The provision of effective, community-driven and relevant educational, training and development programmes is a focal point of the IFP’s reconstruction and social development policy. The declining subsidies for education affect the ability to create a competent workforce, which is one of the tenets of the NSDP 2030.
To conclude, the Party supports Budget Vote 17 in the hope that the above concerns are addressed with efficiency, so that South Africa’s future, through its youth, is not jeopardised.