Government seeks sustainable solutions for varsity funding

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pretoria – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated government’s commitment to working with students and institutions of higher learning to find ways to combat high tuition fees.

The Deputy President answered questions from MPs in the National Assembly on Thursday, where he stressed that finding a workable solution to high tertiary fees remains a priority for this administration.

“The young people are our future and we have to find solutions and secure that future.

“The developments of the past weeks provide an opportunity to find sustainable solutions for higher education,” he said.

Students around the country took part in protests against high tuition fees, the above 10% fee increase for 2016 and the minimum initial payment system.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said government has heard the cries of the students, hence President Jacob Zuma announced on 23 October that fees will not be increased in 2016.

Various proposals are on the table to fund the shortfall following the decision not to increase fees for 2016, said the Deputy President.

Government has set up a Presidential Task Team to consider the short-term implications for the 2016 academic year and the current National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding shortfall.

The medium- to long-term funding of the system also needs to be addressed, said Deputy President Ramaphosa.

However, he said this cannot be confined to university education but it must cover the whole post-school education and training sector, including technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges and community education and training colleges.

“Government will have to consider all the facts and consider how to reprioritise funding to ensure stability and growth of the system. It will also need to consider ways in which affordable higher education for all, including free education for the poor, can be made available.”

The decision by President Zuma to establish a commission of inquiry to look at issues that have been raised by students has been welcomed by Cabinet. The President will announce the commission, together with its terms of reference, in due course.

Turning to the actual protests, Deputy President Ramaphosa said the protests were largely peaceful and students excised great leadership.

“… We all can agree that [it] could have been much worse. But the students need to be commended for this. They raised their issues sharply.”

Closing the skills gap

Government has also prioritised to address the challenge of the shortage of skilled artisans, technicians and engineers in the country.

Government aims to produce 24 000 competent artisan candidates by 2020 as part of the effort to achieve the National Development Plan target of producing 30 000 competent artisans annually by 2030.

“Much work has been undertaken to consolidate and standardise artisan training, recognition and qualification system. [To get] a better view of what is happening in the artisan trade, we have set up a National Artisan Development Support Centre to specifically manage all artisan data,” said the Deputy President.

Government has produced a policy for public comment on Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning.

This policy focuses on the up-skilling of workers who, for a number of years, have been working as assistant artisans without a formal qualification as well as developing a strategy on the quality and improvement of trade tests and artisan development.

A Joint Engineering Education Working Group between the Department of Higher Education and Training and the Engineering Council has been established to ensure that engineering skills needs are addressed and that the quality output of appropriate engineering professionals is met.

It also provides information in relation to the current demand experienced in the engineering profession.

Meanwhile, South Africa will greatly benefit from the bi-national commission agreements that government has entered into with various countries.

Some countries are providing skills development training to South African citizens. For example, Japan is training SA’s artisans and Cuba has trained more than 3 000 South African medical students to date.

Of these, 460 have returned home and are qualified medical doctors providing services for South Africans.

Another example is the agreement between South Africa and China, which provides training for 2 000 South Africans in various fields.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said South Africa always promotes its own national interests which will further develop the country. –

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