On Friday, the DA submitted an application to the Presidency in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to access the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Fees Commission). This follows our numerous appeals to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, the new Minister and the President himself to release the report.
It is urgent and imperative that the public see this report immediately. There are now multiple disturbing rumours in circulation which indicate that the President may have “gone rogue” and “done a Trump”. Rumours reported in the City Press, Sunday Times and Mail and Guardian have it that he has set his sights on a path of ignoring the multimillion rand report’s cautious and considered findings.
It has been over two months since the President received the report on 31 August and it is inconceivable that he should hold on to it this long. 1.7m University and TVET students, and their parents, are in considerable distress, uncertain about financing the start of the 2018 academic year which is just two months away.
Universities say they will not be able to function without a fee increase and are keen to hear if the Government has a solution to their dilemma. As it stands they are unable to announce fee increases without some indication from Government as to possible support for them to do so, as has been the case for the past 2 years.
The report was based on important submissions from all sectors, interested parties and experts.
It is vital that the public have access to it.
There are now bizarre rumours of the President’s alleged infatuation with a shallow and incomplete “funding model”, crafted by a student and friend of his daughter.
Rumours claim the President would like to ignore any professional advice, bypass normal Treasury procedures, cut social grants, and VAT and destroy other programmes within and outside of the Higher Education Department to allow him to announce “Fee-free Higher Education”.
Not only is this outrageous, but even if it were to happen none of the many and varied other problems under consideration by the nearly 800 page Commission, including TVET funding , the NSFAS system and many others, could possibly be addressed or solved by such an approach.
These rumours are fed by the President’s failure to release the report and provide the country with wise and well considered guidance on Higher Education funding.
The President must now provide clarity on these very concerning rumours and releasing the report is the only way to put people’s fears at ease.
The President’s refusal to release the report has resulted in protests at a number of universities, with further damage to property. The futures of tens of thousands of students stand to be jeopardised by his inaction, and the DA will use every tool at our disposal to defend the youth and ensure they have access to the education they need to improve their lives.