Nzimande holds talks with FET student bodies

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pretoria – Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande on Thursday met with student leadership from 50 Further Education and Training (FET) colleges from across the country.

“The reason behind this meeting is for us to engage, empower and listen to our students in the colleges. We need to hear them articulate what their own initiatives, as the student bodies, will be as we collaborate to turn FET colleges into institutions of choice.

“I want to know what contributions they will make to turn FET colleges into catalysts for skills development, economic growth and poverty alleviation,” Nzimande said at the start of the three-day workshop in Pretoria.

Nzimande will use the workshop as a platform to outline government’s vision and future policy direction for FETs as they move from provincial to national competence; and the role Student Representative Councils (SRCs) should play.

SRC President of Buffalo City Public FET College in Eastern Cape, Moosa Zwide from Mdantsane, said they were grateful for the opportunity to be part of the workshop, as they had an opportunity to interact with Nzimande and voice their concerns.

“We appreciate the gesture of the department to engage with us in discussions on the development of FET colleges. We are looking forward to take the information and lessons gained at the workshop back to our colleges to share them with other students.

“The minister is a reasonable and open-minded person. When we raised our challenges, he responded satisfactory and seems to understand where we are coming from as FET students,” said Zwide, who is a Human Resource Management student.

Zwide said he was looking forward to more workshops of this nature with the minister. His wish, however, was to see the establishment of an umbrella body for all FETs to use as a platform to interact with the minister.

In 2010, about 65 000 FET students benefited from government’s investment of R318 million towards bursaries. Since January 2011, the bursary scheme has been extended to students enrolled in NATED programmes (N-Courses), who previously did not benefit, with an allocation amounting to R1.2 billion.

The allocation rose to R1.7 billion in 2012, to which funds in excess of R100 million were added in response to additional demand for financial aid. This year, the department will distribute about R2 billion in financial aid.

“This tells me that technically, the state has started to implement a policy on fee-free education to deserving and academically capable students,” he said.

South Africa’s Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system has a total of 50 FET Colleges, with 264 campuses spread across the provinces.

About 48 colleges are represented in the workshop.

Nzimande said he was convinced that in their dedicated efforts to make FETs institutions of choice in the country, one of the critical areas in which capacity must be built within the sector was within the FETs’ governance structures.

One of the critical components of this was the SRC, he said.

The workshop is an historic event since the department was established in 2009. While the minister has met with all FET college stakeholders in the past three years, he has not yet engaged with the colleges’ student leadership. –