What Cyril had to say

books-441866_960_720FEE-Free higher education for all students is not possible in South Africa at present, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa, speaking to MPs in the National Assembly on Wednesday, said , “If you read the Freedom Charter carefully, you will find the clause that refers to education, and it says education must be free ‘on merit’.”
Government agreed with the notion of free education for the poor and subsidies for the “missing middle” (those whose families earn above the financial aid scheme threshold but who were unable to support their children to access higher education) but those who could afford to pay, had to do so.
Ramaphosa’s words were, according to reports, welcomed by the National Assembly. It was indeed encouraging that a pronouncement was made by one of the country’s main leaders while for months unrest has cost universities (and the public sector) millions as student protests resulted in looting and vandalism.
The public has been hungry to hear from government with Higher Education and Training Minister, Blade Nzimande recently indicating that government had this year provided R1.9-billion of the R2.3-billion shortfall resulting in the subsidisation of the 2016 university fee increase.
More than R4.5 billion in the 2016-17 financial year has been reprioritised to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
In short, while Ramaphosa is indicating that efforts are being made to ensure that as many young people who are capable of further studies but unable to pay are being accommodated, it is impossible to pay for everyone. There are only a few countries in the world able to do so, and most of them have a high number of taxpayers.
In a country like South Africa, where an estimated 3-million taxpayers are paying 99% of income tax in a country with a population of more than 55-million at the last count, the message is clear. If we want to be a country where free higher education is realised, we need to start with the basics first.
That includes creating an enabling environment for development and investment via a stable and credible leadership, creating jobs, growing the economy and empowering people.
These are but some of the foundation stones needed to create a more sustainable and efficient country.
In addition, we need government – on all levels – to commit to a firm stand which puts an end to wasteful and irregular expenditure, corruption and self-enrichment. That would also make a big difference.

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