The DA calls on President Jacob Zuma to immediately release the long overdue Report of the Commission of Enquiry into University Fees, together with the recommendations of Government.
The President’s own nearly 2-month dilly-dallying over the release of the report, and his reported refusal to share it with the previous Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande for what seem to be petty and vindictive reasons, have predictably resulted in a leak of aspects of the report in today’s City Press.
The leak is bound to cause public confusion and concern. The Commission’s reported recommendation that a no-fee solution cannot be found was to be expected – and will itself be controversial in some student quarters.
There are a handful of measures that will be popular: scrapping registration fees, for example – but the full report would have to indicate where universities would get their cashflow for the first three months of the academic year without it.
Making TVETs completely free and introducing a stipend for TVET students is another – but we need to know how much more that would cost, how such a scheme could be managed given the huge complexities of TVET student registrations, and where that money would come from.
And setting up an “education fund” to which multiple bodies could donate money to fund higher education sounds interesting – but given the monumental shortages in funding, it has yet to be shown that such a fund could realistically raise the kinds of additional funds that are needed.
Other reported recommendations are unclear, some are expensive and others are possibly unachievable. For example, in City Press’s version the report advocates:
Spending 1% annually of GDP in University subsidies. Increasing university subsidies is essential to stabilising the system, but fixing it at a ring-fenced rate will not be accepted by most Treasuries;
Developing an “Income-Contingent Loan” system: again a good idea, but the full report needs to convince the public that such a system is both possible, financially viable given current very poor repayment rates, and an improvement on NSFAS. The system, says City Press, would be stabilised through using “unclaimed pension benefits” – an appalling precedent in the light of the fact that our current government would love nothing better than to start raiding funds of this sort (think PIC) for its own chief purpose, that of looting; and
Using the Unemployment Insurance Fund to pay for TVET infrastructure, when in fact funding infrastructure is nowhere near as difficult as funding recurrent expenses, and raiding funds such as these would, again, set a very bad precedent.
The Treasury last week ruled out any significant budget increases in Higher Education without the clear identification of a clear source of new income to pay for it, for example a dedicated tax. This would seem to render at least some of the Commission’s recommendations unviable and possibly dated, which is unsurprising considering the Commission took months to set up, and took an extremely long time to conduct its hearings.
The leak of the report is a sign that the public is desperate to know what is in it. The disdain that the ANC has for the public is once again apparent. The President and the Cabinet have failed in their duty to bring this matter to a swift conclusion.
Source: Democratic Alliance