LiveMagSA: Will we ever get free education?

27 Jun 2015 (7 years, 1 month ago)

By Sheilan Clarke

Imagine a world where you don’t have to pay for school, fork out a fortune to get an education or stand in long queues at NSFAS for a bursary. Well that might be a possibility as government is reportedly aiming to roll out free education for tertiary students. As found in a article, President Jacob Zuma recently said, “We do not believe education should be sold as a commodity and only available to a minority”. What a relief for many, but would it work?

The Obstacles

This week, the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal briefed the Portfolio Committee of Higher Education and Skills Training on their administration, governance and budget deficit. The committee meeting touched on a range of issues, identifying a lack of resources, poor infrastructure and the quality of teachers as some of the concerns plaguing the South African education system. Given all of these problems, the President’s dream of free education may remain just that: a dream.

MP Insight

Yusuf Cassim, Democratic Alliance MP and a member of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Skills Training believes free tertiary education to needy students is a good investment. “Clearly it is a public good which generates returns for the economy and is crucial to improving the conditions of ordinary South Africans and redressing the legacies of apartheid.” He continues, “I believe that free higher education and skills training for those that academically qualify and cannot afford to pay for themselves is a no brainer.”

Earlier this year, a group of students marched to the offices of Higher Education and Skills Training Minister Blade Nzimande to let him know that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme has “ reached its sell by date” and that its “failed students”. Maybe this would be a good reason for free tertiary education?

Who will foot the bill?

Fun fact: Over 16 million South Africans receive a government grant. But Yusuf says that government can in fact fund free education should it become a reality. “Government can afford to fund financially needy, qualifying students however this will mean a departure from government grants,” he says . But he stresses that wasteful expenditure will hamper the possibility of this ideal. “Estimates by the Auditor General have shown that government loses over R30 billion per year through corruption, maladministration and wasteful expenditure. Cutting this will ensure that funds are available to fund poor students fully,” he says.

Would you like to see young people receiving free education? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook and drop a comment below.


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