Justice Jonathan Heher chaired the commission, set up by President Jacob Zuma to probe the feasibility of free higher education in South Africa. Photo: ANA
Durban - Some of the recommendations of the Heher commission into the feasibility of free tertiary education were dividing South Africans, student activist Bonginkosi Khanyile said.

The commission, chaired by Judge Jonathan Arthur Heher, was established by President Jacob Zuma in January last year after violent student protests for free education.

The report, released on Monday, suggested South Africa could not afford free tertiary education for all, but recommended free studies for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.

EFF-aligned Khanyile tore into the report and its recommendations, saying it sought to confine poor and marginalised black students to artisanry.

“The commission is leaning towards funding TVET education. If that is the case, then this will mean that the black and the poor will be confined to TVETs, while the white and the elite will have universities to themselves.

“This will mean that despite one’s academic achievements the poor will be forced to become artisans,” Khanyile said.

He said the country had money for free education, but it was a question of prioritisation.

Other recommendations of the commission were that the government increase its expenditure on higher education and training to at least 1% of the country’s GDP, in line with comparable economies. The TVET college funding, according to the report, would come in the form of grants that cover the full cost of study and that no student should be partially funded.

The commission recommended all undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at public and private universities and colleges, regardless of their family background, be funded through a cost-sharing model of government-guaranteed income-contingency loans sourced from commercial banks.

Through this model, the commission recommended commercial banks issue government-guaranteed loans to the students payable by the student on graduation and attainment of a specific income threshold.

Should the student fail to reach the required income threshold, the government would bear the secondary liability. The collection and recovery of the loan would be undertaken by Sars.

Sandile Dlamini, the SA Students’ Congress (Sasco)-aligned SRC president at the Mangosuthu University of Technology, said it was wrong to consider only TVET colleges for free education.

“These are just recommendations of a report so without quoting the president out of context, let’s wait for him to pronounce once he is done with consultation. We are totally against these recommendations,” Dlamini said.

Sandile Zondi, UKZN's Sasco-aligned SRC president, said he had not read the report and asked to be called after 5pm. When he was called again, he said he was in a meeting.

The interministerial committee on higher education funding led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and the presidential fiscal committee led by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba were processing the report.

The president said he would make a pronouncement on the report once the ministers had concluded their work.

Daily News