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News

Gordhan to address commission probing free higher education

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan makes his long-awaited submission on Friday to the commission investigating the feasibility of free higher education.

Musa Ndwandwe‚ spokesman for the fees commission‚ confirmed on Thursday that the minister would take the stand.

Gordhan’s submission had been scheduled for last month but‚ Ndwandwe said‚ he had asked for a postponement until after he had presented his budget speech.

In his budget speech‚ presented in parliament last week‚ Gordhan said in addition to the increase of R32-billion allocated to higher education in last year’s budget and the 2016 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement‚ the government had added a further R5-billion to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.

He said the government had provided funds to ensure no student whose combined family income was below R600 000 a year would face fee increases at universities and TVET colleges for 2017.

The finance minister said the government was determined to address challenges in tertiary education in a phased manner‚ with resources taken into account while determining the pace at which problems could be addressed.

Activists have called on Gordhan to “dispel the myth” that the fiscus cannot afford free higher education for all.

Shaheed Mohamed‚ secretary of the Workers International Vanguard League‚ which made its submission in Cape Town last year‚ said it was “an insult to students” to be told the government could not invest in their future.

Fasiha Hassan‚ Wits SRC deputy secretary-general‚ said the consensus was that education was administered as a privilege when it was‚ in fact‚ a public good.

“There are lots of constraints‚ yes‚ but we need a level of creativity to strike a balance‚” Hassan said.