JOHANNESBURG – The National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) said on Tuesday it was concerned by the "official queries" made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative in South Africa on the policies of free higher education in the country.

This comes after reports that  Montfort Mlachila, IMF senior resident and representative in South Africa, queried the country's move to offer free tertiary education, saying instead more money should be spent on primary and secondary education.

"Spending a lot more money at the tertiary level through free tertiary education is missing the crucial issues. A lot of the students who do get to tertiary education and get it for free can definitely afford it, even if they can’t afford it immediately they can in future by getting jobs," Mlachila was quoted as saying.

At the beginning of this year, South African government introduced fee-free tertiary education for all students from homes whose income is less than R350 000 per annum. 

Zola Saphetha, Nehawu general secretary, said the IMF regurgitated the Verwoerdian doctrine and was stating that the South African government must merely spend on basic education, which is another way of saying that it must keep the university education elite and predominantly white.
  
"Mlachila betrays his ignorance of the fact that until the 2015-2017 students’ uprisings in higher education, budgetary allocations to universities generally remained stagnant whilst demands for access increased. This was part of the Neoliberal dogma, assimilated by the post-1994 government from the same institutions such as the IMF," Saphetha said.
 
"He doesn't even try to make his proposals on any empirical grounds, let alone showing some awareness of the long-term socioeconomic destructive effects of such policies and this has even been appreciated by some IMF economists in 2017."

Saphetha said the IMF was obtruding with these formulaic proposals, totally unconcerned and not even trying to respond to the empirical reality disclosed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) last month, in the Global Wage Report 2018/19, which found that the country has the highest wage inequality in the world amongst 64 countries.
 
"We believe that the IMF has no expertise to make comments on education and other social services, and this is reflected in its track record in Africa, including recently in Greece. It must stay out of the South African democratic policy-making process," he said.

Meanwhile, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde is in South Africa meeting SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago on recent economic developments in the country. Lagarde is in South Africa as part of her annual tour of African countries. She will pay a courtesy call on President Cyril Ramaphosa and meet with other stakeholders.

African News Agency (ANA)