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Private sector called upon for tuition funding

By Staff Writer
Friday saw the national student protest movement protesting for a zero percent fee increase victorious, as President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no tuition fee increase for 2016. But questions now beg as to where the funding shortfall will now come from and the feasibility of national free education.

In a recent ENCA interview, Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande revealed that the challenges facing the universities could be partially accredited to the growing success of the ANC government.

He went on to substantiate by drawing attention to the growth of the university sector under the governance of the political party, post 1994.

Nzimande acknowledged that there had been a decline in government funding to universities. However, according to him, this is a result of the system growing faster than the "core money" government was contributing.’

Nzimande highlighted that a more detailed analysis through information gathered by the various institutions still needed to be acquired to determine the financial impact of the decision taken, but remarked that the funding shortfall would be around R3 billion.

When asked about the students’ plight for free education, he remarked that the country could afford free education but the money to do so was admittedly monopolised by the private sector.

He went on to state that: “It would cost R37 billion over the next three years, in addition to the R9.5 billion in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).”

The department under, Nzimande’s instruction, has apparently given their ‘respective director generals’ the task of exploring prospective income avenues. He also added that were currently liaising with the Minister of finance on the matter.

This response coinciding with the call from the National Union for Mine Workers Youth Structure (NUMYS) last week, in appealing to major businesses to step in, in funding national tertiary education.

Several companies currently offer bursaries and learnerships to tertiary students. However, in general these are specific to the company’s core business focus, such as accountancy, engineering and architecture.

“Our investment in human resources development initiatives across our business in South Africa is aimed at developing potential and current employees whilst also contributing to the development of South Africa. These initiatives place specific emphasis on historically disadvantaged South Africans and women. These initiatives include bursaries, learnerships, portable skills training, and a professionals-in-training programmes amongst others. In 2014 we spent R1 billion on bursaries, ABET learners and learnerships. We fund student tuition through our bursary programme which included the allocation of 978 bursaries last year,” said Shamiela Letsoalo, external communication manager for Anglo American.

Nzimande concluded by saying: "The fiscus has been stretched and my own view is that we should look at all these proposals being made to get more money, whether you use the wealth tax, or you raise the skills levies, but it’s very clear that money will also have to be gotten from the private sector, because they are the principal beneficiaries from the graduates that we produce from our universities."

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