National Assembly, Parliament
Mkhuleko Hlengwa, MP
Inkatha Freedom Party
At the outset let me express my gratitude to the Honourable Speaker for acceding to my request to schedule this urgent matter of national public importance on the fees crisis in South Africa in terms of Rule130(2) of the National Assembly.
Almost 10 months ago the #FeesMustFall Movement gained its momentum and swept throughout the country with genuine concern that higher education has become a commercialised right inching closer and closer to becoming the preserve of the rich and wealthy. The demand of the students was one: #FeesMustFall.
1) This matter is not being dealt with by the Presidency, the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Finance, despite assurances and continued placatory rhetoric, nothing further has transpired on the issue for the last 10 (ten) months; It remains without satisfactory resolution;
2) As a direct result thereof, we are currently witnessing an escalating frustration and dissatisfaction amongst students at various campuses around South Africa, with certain campuses currently having to be shut down and others now burning;
3) Student Movements across the spectrum are becoming restless and angry at the non-response by the Presidency, the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Finance and if the situation is allowed to continue it may well spiral out of control, and jeopardize another year of higher education in our country;
4) ‘Prevention is always better than cure’ It is the submission of the IFP that this Parliament, and in particular, the National Assembly must step in and assist in mediating and bringing resolve to this impending crisis before it reignites in our tertiary institutes around the country.
We must now confront the reality that in a desperate attempt to alleviate the anxieties of students, a zero percent fee increment was proposed.
This knee-jerk reaction by the government was done in the absence of a clear plan and set into motion a legitimate expectation that fees were on course to being abolished; and this has not materialised and as a result the fires have been re-lit. Universities are regrettably once more burning.
A wrong precedent was set, and once again the chickens have come home to roost. In condemning the violence and destruction to property, we must take the time to hear the voices of students.
The Fees Commission is a compromised exercise, and its objectives are questionable, because it was not set up to legitimately adjudicate the fees question but rather it is a sorry attempt to dupe students into believing something is being done and by so doing take the steam out of the #FeesMustFall Movement. It is common course that free education is possible and most importantly necessary; the issue before us now is how we implement free education.
NSFAS is not free education. NSFAS is poorly and corruptly managed and in many respects has been a major let down for the poor. The overhaul must start there.
The following is proposed:
1. The Parliamentary BRRR Processes scheduled to commence in the next term must focus on redirecting funds to Higher Education and reducing spending in departmental programmes across the board which are not geared towards service delivery,
2. The operations of NSFAS must remain decentralised, given full capacity to function at the various institutions with improved turnaround time on assessment of applications, approval and payment to beneficiaries.
3. All NSFAS applications must contain the unabridged birth certificates of applicants, and verification from Home Affairs must be sought through a designated unit to eliminate fraudulent applicants accessing NSFAS funds.
4. A unit to be established at the Department of Social Development to prioritise recipients of child support grants to access NSFAS as part of the child support program.
5. SARS to track parents of NSFAS recipients to ensure that wealthy income earners are not by-passing the system through fraud or deliberate omission.
6. That a full audit be conducted to assess whether the costs involved in higher education are justified. Are the prices being charged by institutions reasonable and competitive?
Funds must follow function and not individuals, and specifically in this regard not students; this means more emphasis must be placed on the capacity of institutions to handle the predetermined number of students who even if they fail will not result in wasteful and fruitless expenditure, and debt will not be accumulated as a burden on the student.
Honourable Speaker, in appreciating the time you have allotted to this debate I am mindful that we cannot possibly exhaust all the issues or explore all the solutions today but the duty and responsibility rests on this House to carry on its shoulders the aspirations of the youth of South Africa.
Therefore, I will move in the coming days that this House establishes in terms of Rule 253 an Ad hoc Committee to look at all the issues related to the fees crisis and determine concrete solutions thereof.
Parliament must take its rightful place as the representative of the people and deal with this matter once and for all.
And in the final analysis we must have the political conviction to say whether free education is possible or not; and take appropriate action to respond to positively to whatever conclusion we reach.
I would like to make a direct appeal to the students to desist from burning and destructing property. Let us rather burn and destruct fees.
Mr Mkhuleko Hlengwa, MP
071 1110 539
IFP Media, Parliament