Dept making strides for young, old FET students

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pretoria – The Department of Higher Education and Training has developed a vision for post-school education and training and has already begun to improve opportunities for youth and adults in acquiring further education and skills.

“This has been made possible through a variety of strategies, including a concerted effort to raise popular consciousness around the possibilities provided by an FET education, through the introduction of fee-free education for poor students in FET Colleges and the expansion of shorter skills courses offered in FET Colleges with the assistance of the SETAs,” said Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Speaking in the National Assembly on Wednesday during a debate on the State of the Nation Address, he said FET College enrolments had grown substantially over the last few years – from about 350 000 in 2010 to over 650 000 in 2012, almost doubling.

The minister explained that a turnaround strategy to improve the quality of FET College teaching and management has been developed. This includes short term interventions to stabilise some of the weaker colleges, the appointment of qualified chartered accountants as chief financial officers in 43 of the 50 FET Colleges, the development of specialised qualifications for college lecturers and special interventions to strengthen student support, among others.

He said a review of the curriculum of the National Certificate (Vocational) was being undertaken to tackle some of the challenges associated with the current curriculum, including R2.5 billion for the current MTEF period to upgrade their infrastructure, announced by President Jacob Zuma last year.

“Under the leadership of President Zuma, NSFAS funding for loans and bursaries to students in universities and colleges have expanded massively from R2.375 billion in 2008 to well over R6 billion this year. 

“FET College students coming from poor backgrounds and following occupational programmes are now completely exempted from paying fees. This is indeed the first ever in our country, under the leadership of President Zuma!”

The minister said bursary funds for FET College students coming from poor families have increased from R310 million in 2009 to R1.75 billion in 2012 and to reach R2 billion in 2013. 

“Such a massive increase, largely to the benefit of poor black students, has never ever happened in our country before. It is happening for the first time under President Zuma.”

He added that over the next three years, the department had set aside R1.7 billion for building new university student accommodation and universities are contributing an additional R0.6 billion.

Of the R2.3 billion total, R1.4 billion will be spent on student accommodation at historically disadvantaged institutions where the need is greatest. This will provide 9 000 new beds in universities.

Government has also committed to establishing three new universities which will help to expand capacity and access to higher education. These include the two new universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape whose first students will be admitted next year.

“These will be the first universities of a democratic South Africa, and R2.1 billion has been set aside for such infrastructure; and about 11 242 direct jobs will be created during the construction phase.

The department is also building a new comprehensive university of health sciences to be established on the Medunsa campus which is being demerged from the University of Limpopo.

“The new university will be a much expanded institution and will include not only the training of medical doctors, but also other health professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, nurses, physiotherapists, medical technologists, radiographers, and so on.” –