Treasury officials admitted yesterday that they have not done a full costing of former President, Jacob Zuma’s, promises on fee-free Higher Education.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) officials said in January that all the answers on the new policy would be provided in the yesterday’s budget.
While the allocation of R57 billion was announced, no clarity was given on where this money would go. The budget therefore only caused more confusion and uncertainty.
The fact is NSFAS and universities cannot confirm how many students would need to be funded this year as application and registration processes are still underway.
The current proposal cannot simply be estimated on last year’s figures, as many qualifying students wouldn’t have applied for this academic year due to the last minute surprise announcement by Zuma.
The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, has made a desperate attempt to pacify concerned students, parents and institutions by throwing a large cheque at the problem without knowing how much is actually required.
Minister Gigaba even admitted as much by saying “The announcement on fee-free education was unexpected, and we preferred an announcement that was mindful to the sensitivity of the budget planning process. Fee-free is free on the student, but not free for government and the people of SA”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa must urgently address the feasibility of this model, provide clarity on exactly how much funding is required and how his government intends to provide it. Without this clarity, he is playing fast and loose with the future of millions of young people.