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President, please plan properly for higher education Pre-SONA 2018 PSAM Statement
By SIYABULELA FOBOSI
The Public Service Accountability Monitor highlights challenges in higher education ahead of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address on Friday 16 February
On 16 February 2018, the newly elected President of the Republic of South Africa will deliver the 2018 State of the Nation Address (SONA). The country continues to face challenges with ensuring access to a fee-free higher education.. When the President delivers SONA on Friday, the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) would like to highlight the following priorities that we he will address related to higher education in South Africa.
Access to higher education, just like all social services, in South Africa is determined by funding. It is critical to note that “where government allocation is failing in providing more funds, historically white universities have private funds/income and high university fees to assist them.”
The majority of students enrolled at the so-called“historically Black universities are the poor African and Coloured from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. There is an increasing need for capital to access higher education in the country.
Over the years, fees in higher education have grown at a rate that is more than inflation rates. This condition has made access to education unaffordable for a majority of the population across the country.
Higher education in South Africa continues to face financial constraints. The elected President will need to outline the implementation plans of the free Higher education, as announced in December 2017 by the former President Jacob Zuma that government would subsidize free higher education for poor and working class students.
At the time of tabling the 2017/18 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, the Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba noted that gross national debt is projected to reach 61% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022, with debt-service costs approaching 15% of main budget revenue by 2020/21. The MTBPS was delivered in a context where there is growing inequality levels, and the unemployment rate sitting at 27.7% – the highest figure since September 2003.
If the current trends continue, it is unlikely that South Africa will realise free tertiary education in the near future. The current economic crisis undermines the possibility for free tertiary education.
What is important to critically consider in the discussion for free higher education costs is the meaning of ‘free’. The call for fee-free higher education necessitates the need to engage with the questions of equity, equality, access and transformation. Generally, it is recognised that higher education cannot be free, as someone through some means must inevitably cover the cost of education. South Africa is, therefore, not faced with a policy choice of whether higher education can be free or not but rather, a question of “who pays, when do they pay and how much of the share of the costs can they pay”.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), established in 1999 through an Act of Parliament, Act No 56 of 1999, continues to provide loans to eligible students at public higher education institutions.
Since its establishment, the NSFAS has become recognised as the only student financial aid scheme despite the funding challenges it continues to face. According to the Submission to the Commission of Inquiry in June 2016 by the NSFAS on Free-Higher Education, NSFAS has provided access to more than 1.5 million students from poor and working class families.
The future of most students continue to be affected by lack of funding to further studies, even though the NSFAS is making an attempt to bridge the gap between many young people who come from poor backgrounds and the unaffordable cost of higher education in South Africa.
The effects of poverty on young people who aspire to access higher education further compound the complex barriers to equal access that NSFAS aims to address. In many instances, student debtors are often unable to repay the loan owing to the lack of opportunities to secure formal employment.
Despite the sharp increases in NSFAS allocations for student funding (R510 million in 2000, R3.6 billion in 2010 and R9 billion in 2014), the demand for higher education funding continues to increase ahead of the allocations.
In order to address the inequalities of access to Higher Education, the PSAM makes the following recommendations:
- There is a need to improve targeting of public spending to disadvantaged groups in order to achieve more equitable education outcomes.
- There should be bursary funding, and not just loans, for students in order to cover for their tuition fees, accommodation, books and other living expenses.
- The financial support instruments will need to be broader to accommodate for families whose household income cannot contribute to the cost of tuition.
- Students should never be excluded for financial reasons; promoting a system of meritocracy.
- Government should prioritise poor people in the realisation of free higher education in South Africa.
The PSAM therefore urges the elected President to provide clear, adequately-resourced implementation plans for the fee-free higher education.
 http://www.nsfas.org.za/content/publications/NSFAS%20Submission%20to%20the%20Fees%20Commission%2020160724.pdf accessed on 14 February 2018
 https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2018-02-06-sona-postponement-will-not-be-longer-than-a-week-modise/ accessed on 14 February 2018
 https://equaleducation.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Equal-Education-submission-to-the-Fees-Commission-June-2016-2.pdf accessed on 15 February 2018, page 11
 https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/zuma-announces-free-higher-education-for-poor-and-working-class-students-20171216 accessed on 14 February 2014.
 http://www.treasury.gov.za/documents/MTBPS/2017/speech/speech.pdf at page 9 accessed on 14 February 2018
 http://www.nsfas.org.za/content/publications/NSFAS%20Submission%20to%20the%20Fees%20Commission%2020160724.pdf at page 17 accessed on 14 February 2018
Don’t be distracted by pass rates, urges Siyabulela Fobosi. What we should be concerned about are the huge gaps between urban and rural areas, and better resourced versus Matric Results-2017_Analysis-5-Janauary-2018-FINALpoorer schools.
The Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga announced the results of the National Senior Certificate Class of 2017 on Thursday, 4 January 2017 and, noted “that the national pass rate improved to 75.1 percent when progressed learners are included and 75.6 percent if they are excluded”. This was a 2.6 percentage increase from 72.5 percent in 2016.
These results show how the country’s school leavers performed in their final exams after 12 years of formal schooling. The results spawn a great deal of debate. There is a huge focus on matric results every year, in particular, the national pass rate.
While it is important to look at the national pass rate to see how our education system is doing, it is more critical to recognise that the focus on the national pass rate often obscures significant differences in provincial achievements, the divisions between urban and rural areas, as well as the unequal outcomes for pupils in poorer schools.
The Province of the Free State was the top achieving province in 2017 with a pass rate of 86.1 percent. Gauteng was in the second place, having “achieved 85.1 percent‚ the same pass rate as in 2016”. The Eastern Cape “achieved 65 percent‚ up from 59.3 percent in 2016 – the second largest improvement in the country while Limpopo achieved 65.6 percent‚ up by 3.1 percent from 2016”.
The Eastern Cape (65 percent) and Limpopo (65.6 percent) achieved less than 70 percent in comparison to other Provinces. While the Eastern Cape experienced an improvement by 5.7 percent, there is a need to improve the quality of education from Grade R onwards and, not only in Grade 12.
Access to quality of education remains very poor mostly in the historically deprived areas in the Eastern Cape; some of the schools do not even meet the basic learning infrastructure requirements such as access to laboratories, libraries and internet connections. This condition results in learners experiencing grade repetition and dropout rates. Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds perform poorly because, they are enrolled in schools with fewer resources, such as education materials and staff.
A Fiscal Monitor report released in October 2017 by the International Monetary Fund, Tackling Inequality, notes that addressing education disparities will lead to improvement in equality. As such, narrowing the disparities in quality education and learning outcomes is necessary in order to improve enrolment and academic achievements for all.
In other words, more emphasis should be placed on improving the quality of basic education and, not just an obsession with the matric pass rate annually. There should be better resourcing foundation phase and ensuring adequate Grade R funding. Support should be provided to more rural/poor performing schools and districts.
Improving the quality of basic education has the potential to address several socio-economic problems, reduce dropout rates and better-equip matriculants to pursue further education or enter the job market.
Siyabulela Fobosi is an Education Researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor at Rhodes University. S.Fobosi@ru.ac.za
Read all the latest news in the December PSAM newsletter. The newsletter includes articles from PSAM staff, information about events and conferences attended by PSAM staff, and ongoing initiatives within the organisation.
A bleak future awaits job-hunting matriculants who completed their final exams yesterday as the country continues to shed jobs at an alarming rate.
Some 105000 Grade 12 pupils in the province wrote their final paper in their end-of-year exams yesterday, and while many plan to study further, there are those who are hoping to find jobs next year.
However, the education researcher at the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), Siyabulela Fobosi, advised matriculants to study further.
Fobosi warned that with the current unemployment rate, the future for a Grade 12 pupil hoping to join the job market without studying further “does not look good”.
“Such pupils are most likely to add to the growing number of discouraged work-seekers. They are more likely to join the informal sector,” said Fobosi.
The unemployment rate is currently at 27.7% countrywide and the Eastern Cape has the highest unemployment rate at 35.5%.
Economists have warned that the unemployment rate is likely to soar.
The Dispatch yesterday spoke to a few Grade 12 pupils from John Bisseker Senior Secondary School in East London who are hoping to find employment next year.
The pupils had just written their last exam, the English 3 paper, bringing their school era to an end.
Likhona Charlie said studying further was not an option for her because she needed to provide for her family by finding a job.
“I need to make money to support my family. I have four siblings and I am the eldest. I need to find a job to help my mother financially. Maybe in a few years time I will enrol in a computer course,” she said.
The 21-year-old said she was unskilled and finding a job would not be easy.
“I am looking for any kind of job, I can be a cashier or even a packer,” she said.
Mickayla Gysman said both her parents had been unemployed since her mother was recently retrenched from her factory job.
She was hoping to find a job at the same factory.
Leighton Majoos said he wanted to find a job to “build some experience” and then study further.
“Most places are looking for employees who are experienced. So my plan is to get the experience first and study later,” Majoos said.
Fobosi said getting an education was considered to be the best way to get ahead in today’s “unequal world”. “Even though people with just a matric and no further qualification are employable, they are not employed in decent employment.
“People who are better-educated have, typically, higher chances of obtaining decent employment.
“Unemployment rates generally decline with increasing levels of qualifications. Therefore, someone with matric and no qualification is significantly less employable in the formal labour market,” said Fobosi. — firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jay Kruuse
On Friday 27 October 2017, Daily Maverick ran an article which revealed that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) headed by besieged Commissioner Tom Moyane, recently sought to interdict the Auditor-General (AG) from concluding its annual audit of SARS. By JAY KRUUSE.
The AG’s powers are drawn from the Constitution read with the Public Audit Act (PAA), which emphasise that the AG is an independent institution and must perform its functions without fear, favour or prejudice. Additionally, “no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning” of such an institution.
The PSAM calls upon Parliament’s Scopa to exercise greater oversight over the conduct of SARS. The PSAM requests that Parliament consider whether there is any prima facie evidence that section 51 of the PAA has been contravened. This section determines that a person is guilty of an offence if that person:
(a) hinders or interferes with the Auditor-General or any person exercising a power or carrying out a duty in term so this Act; 1
(b) refuses or fails to comply with a request of the Auditor-General or an authorized auditor in terms of section 15;
(c) furnishes false or misleading information when complying with a request of the Auditor-General or an authorised auditor.
The news article alleges that Commissioner Moyane’s attempt to interdict the AG relates to audit concerns raised by the AG that bonus payments approved by Moyane for his executive team, were irregular expenditure. Earlier this year the Mail & Guardian revealed how then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had written to Moyane, raising serious concerns with his plans to process bonus payments to his top management. Gordhan advised Moyane that:
The PSAM is of the view that Commissioner Moyane should issue an unreserved apology to the Office of the Auditor-General. We urge SARS to rather focus upon curbing illicit financial flows from South Africa and improving the tax revenue systems within SARS. Particularly in light of the fact that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba noted recently that “tax revenue is projected to fall short of the 2017 Budget estimate by R50.8-billion in the current year, the largest downward revision since the 2009 recession”. DM 16
Jay Kruuse is director, Public Service Accountability Monitor (www.psam.org.za)
File photo: South African Revenue Service Commissioner Tom Moyane. 1
“As global companies implicated in a graft scandal in South Africa scramble to contain the damage to their reputations, politicians and law enforcement agencies are prevaricating and stalling official investigations.”
Read all the latest news in the September PSAM newsletter. The newsletter, which has a focus on learning, offers insights into the RLP Annual Regional Workshop which brought together partners from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.
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