The DA notes with disappointment the Jacob G Zuma Foundation’s inability to pay the 2016 fees of at least 30 university students. It is ironic that on the eve of the release of the President’s Commission of Inquiry into fee-free higher education, the charitable foundation which bears his name finds itself unable to keep its promises to students.
A number of students from poor backgrounds, particularly those at the University of Zululand, have been left high and dry by the foundation, which has either run out of funds or has exercised poor planning of its financial affairs. Either way, this is a scandal as the futures of many students now hang in the balance. We call on President Jacob Zuma to urgently review the impact of the foundation’s failure to pay for tuition fees on those students who already were awarded bursaries.
The lack of access to higher education is among the causes of unemployment in South Africa and the foundation’s failed bursary scheme puts even more students in a difficult position. It is bad enough that thousands of students from impoverished homes had to protest to secure financial support from the state. The foundation added further insult to injury by offering support to students only to withdraw it because of its own “financial difficulties”. The move was irresponsible and cruel to the affected students.
It is also outrageous that the Foundation has put pressure on universities to pick up the slack when those very institutions are in financial difficulties themselves. The foundation has also tried to palm its bursary holders off on the already-strained NSFAS in order to “alleviate the financial burden”.
Raising private money and spending it wisely are matters that require care and responsibility. The issue of access to higher education is one that is intrinsically linked to one’s ability to access the job market. This cannot be used as a political football or a failed legacy project for the President.
If President Zuma truly cares about the work that this foundation was established to do, he should make a personal commitment to ensure that those who have been promised bursaries will not be left in the lurch.