Johannesburg - Free education for the poor should become a reality
sooner rather than later, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said
Much had already been done to alleviate the financial
strain higher education put on poorer students, he said in response to a
memorandum by the SA Students' Congress (Sasco) demanding free education.
"Loans and bursaries administered by the National
Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) have been expanded substantially
over the last three years."
Funding for loans and bursaries tripled from R2.3bn in 2008 to R6bn last year. An amount of R50m was
also made available for post-graduate scholarships, and R63m for
Sasco proposed that free education be funded by
corporate tax, particularly derived from monopoly industries. It also
wanted universities to stop withholding students' results if they could
not afford to pay their fees.
Other demands included the disbanding of the council
and management of the University of Free State, and for Nzimande to play
a stronger role in the transformation of tertiary education
"We actually share Sasco's concerns relating to
improving the living and learning environments for students at higher
education and training institutions."
Tuition fees, however, were determined by university councils rather than the ministry of higher education.
He denied Sasco's assertion that the ministerial
working group on free education was duplicating the work of the NSFAS
"Sasco is also welcome to invite the department's
officials to your meetings, in order to assist you to develop a better
understanding of my vision and objectives on post-school education and
training," Nzimande said.