Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says free education would only be rolled out for the poorest students
Free higher education is only for the poor, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande told Parliament on Wednesday.
“Those who are calling for everyone [to study for free], we can’t afford that as a country,” Nzimande told a committee on higher education. “Wealthy students must pay.”
Nzimande was taking questions from MPs who wanted more information on the #FeesMustFall crisis at universities, which closed down campuses across the country days before end-of-year exams.
He said the only reason more students were not funded, was because there was no money.
Currently 16% of undergraduates at South Africa’s universities are being funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – fewer than the target of 25%. Another R3 billion is needed to keep the current arrangement in place.
The committee was told that universities do not have vast amounts of money that are not being used, as some have suggested.
The money students may be referring to is endowments – money left in a will for a specific course, or money earmarked for specific programmes.
The meeting took place as universities tried to get their academic timetables and exams back on track following an announcement by President Jacob Zuma on Friday that fees would not be increased next year.
Nzimande said some money had been diverted from the Sector Education Training Authorities (Seta) for scarce skills education, but insisted that it would not become a “milking cow” or a war chest.
This is because vocational training is important and some unemployed youths need “just one skill” to make a change, he said.