The DA believes that Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande has yet again failed to act decisively to deal with the funding crisis at universities.
“It has now taken the closure of three of our universities to get the Minister to respond, states Belinda Bozzoli, shadow minister of higher education and training. “And his response has consisted of calling for yet another talk shop. His inaction is directly contributing to keeping our young people out of class, and denying them opportunities for a better future.
“It is time the ANC government stepped up to the plate. They have neglected our Higher Education system for 20 years. Minister Nzimande appears to be absent whenever the crunch comes, and has done little that is preemptive to address the situation even though he has been warned about it for years, by the DA, the auditor-general, vice-chancellors and students themselves. We are disgusted at the gross neglect he and his colleagues have displayed and not at all surprised that the system is undergoing such a severe crisis.
“And make no mistake, there have been many summits, talk shops and stakeholder meetings. Indeed, the vice-chancellors of our universities recently approached the President and the Minister to tell them of the severe lack of funding for both students and universities. The result – a ‘task group’ with no decision making powers.
“The Minister needs to stop deferring blame for the problem to universities and their vice-chancellors when he knows perfectly well that they are increasingly struggling to operate without sufficient funding. It is now time for decisive action to address the funding shortage which essentially denies poorer students a tertiary education and therefore an opportunity to improve their lives.
“The hard truth is that there is not enough money allocated to both students – through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) – and to universities in the form of government subsidies.
“NSFAS have acknowledged that they are only able to fund roughly half of the young people who qualify for their grants – that is the very poorest – and would need a further R51-billion to be able to fund all those who qualify.
“Universities are also hobbled by a severe shortage of funding. Their core subsidy has consistently fallen in real terms for 20 years. Student numbers, in turn, have risen dramatically. Furthermore, South Africa’s expenditure on higher education accounts for only 12% of expenditure on education as a whole. The rest of Africa and the world it is 20%.
“Instead of engaging in more talks with stakeholders the Minister should be appealing to the Treasury to urge that the funding crisis is set as a top priority. This will be the only way that this this crisis will be solved, once and for all.”