GOVERNMENT has point-blank refused to reveal how much free higher education announced by President Zuma is likely to cost and where the money will come from, only that it will not be beyond the approved budget.
The president announced in December that students from poor and working class families with a combined annual income of up to R350 000 will be fully subsidised for their technical vocational education and training (TVET) Colleges or university fees.
Briefing the media in Pretoria ahead of the release of matric results on Thursday, higher education minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize, said minister of finance, Malusi Gigaba, was very much part of the process and had made a plea for government not to delve into the funding details of the new higher education funding policy.
Pressed for answers, the minister said: “I may not be able to give you an exact amount…I do not want to be in conflict with the minister of finance. He made a plea to (Zuma) not to delve into that space. He made a plea to all of us, the (inter-ministerial) committee, to communicate, address issues and leave the nitty-gritties to him but the technical team assured us that this is not going to affect the limits. That means this will not go beyond the approved budget that was voted for in parliament”
She said there had been a due process in which Gigaba and his team was at the centre, saying there had been back-to-back meetings held on weekends and after hours.
She said the budgeting process started with the Fees Must Fall campaign
Mkhize said after all the work was done, Gigaba was the one who helped the committee to make a breakthrough on the financing of free higher education for students from poor and working class families.
She said the budgeting process started with the Fees Must Fall campaign and that there were already funds which were identified and pumped into the National Students Financial Aid Scheme.
Mkhize said NSFAS had already received more than 300 000 applications for first year students for the 2018 academic year at universities and TVET colleges.
She explained that all applicants in possession of a firm offer from a higher learning institution will be assed for funding using the revised criteria; those in possession of firm offer from a tertiary institution but did not apply for funding will be assisted; students who may not have applied at an institution or NSFAS and are looking for space in the post school system will be assisted through the Central Applications Clearing House (CACHE).
“We believe that this will go a long way in the fight against perennial challenge of skills deficit that has bedevilled the country since the dawn of our democracy. The investment in our youth will result in the production of a youthful workforce armed with relevant skills critical for our endeavour as a country to create inclusive economic growth,” she said.