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Zuma releases report on feasibility of free higher education in South Africa



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President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on Monday released the much-anticipated report on the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education and Training in South Africa.

The report, however, falls short of making higher education and training fee-free, raising fears that a new spate of student protest might erupt.

There is currently no capacity for the state to provide free tertiary education to all students in the country, the report has found.

There is insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students, whether in need or not, according to the report.

In January 2016, Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry into higher education and training in order to add into the body of knowledge and evidence that would inform the government’s decision making process in pursuit of a sustainable solution to the on-going higher education funding matter.

The report, released by Zuma, recommends that all undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at both public and private universities and colleges, regardless of their family background, be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed Income-Contingency Loans sourced from commercial banks.

Through this cost-sharing model, commercial banks should issue government guaranteed loans to the students that are payable by the student upon graduation and attainment of a specific income threshold, according to the report.

The report also recommends that the government increase its expenditure on higher education and training to at least one per cent of the GDP, in line with comparable economies.

Zuma said the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding led by the Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, and the Presidential Fiscal Committee led by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba are processing the report.

“I will make a pronouncement on the report once the ministers have concluded their work.

“I have decided to release the report prior to the conclusion of our work in processing it so that the public can have an opportunity to study the report while we continue with the processing thereof,’’ Zuma said.

Students were planning a national day of action as their demands for Zuma to release the much-awaited Fees Commission Report intensified.

Zuma had been under fire for delaying the report.

Following widespread student protests over tuition fee increases in 2015, Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry in January 2016 to investigate the feasibility of making higher education and training fee-free in the country.

After failing to present the report within the 18 month deadline, the commission had its term extended until June 30, 2017.

Zuma received the final report from the commission on August 30, 2017.

Students are threatening to launch fresh protests nationwide to press their demand for free higher education.

In 2015, widespread student protests erupted in all major universities across the country, triggered by tuition fee hikes ranging from 10 per cent to 50 per cent for the 2016 school year.

The protests continued for weeks until Zuma succumbed to students’ demand for zero-per cent increase in tuition fee.


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