He said this in response to the report on fee-free education, which President Jacob Zuma released on Monday.
Included in the report’s recommendations is a suggestion that university students should be exonerated from registration fees.
The report delivered good news for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students, recommending that none of them should pay for their studies.
“We will accept nothing less than the declaration of free education for the poor. Should free education not be declared by 2018, we will march with students,” Sabelo said.
In the summary of the 748-page report, the commission recommended that students from public and private higher education institutions, irrespective of the family financial background, be funded through “a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed Income-Contingency Loans sourced from commercial banks.”
It recommended that the loans should be payable by students “upon graduation and attainment of a specific income threshold”, and that the SA Revenue Service should be tasked to recover the loans.
“Should the student fail to reach the required income threshold, government bears the secondary liability,” read the summary.
Sabelo said the league rejected the university funding model, and called for free education. “The state must pay for education of the poor; it must consider other avenues, such as a fuel levy to fund free education for the poor,” he said.
EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the recommendations wrongly suggested that only poor students go to TVET colleges, while those who went to universities were from rich families.
“The point is to make education and training about talent and comprehensive development of human resources, and not about affordability. The EFF believes that all students in South Africa can be funded by our government, regardless of whether they choose TVET or university qualifications,” Ndlozi said.
The government needed the political will to expand its fiscal capacity by nationalising mines and banks, he said.
Unless this was done, “education will always be the preserve of the rich”.
Cope said it was concerned that Zuma might act against the commission by implementing free education, an act that might further weaken market confidence in the government.
“Cope hopes that sanity will prevail; that Zuma won’t abuse this matter, seeking his ‘Lula moment’; that he won’t make a Machiavellian move that will damage our higher education sector and bankrupt South Africa,” read a Cope statement.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said that instead of wholesale introduction of free education, the country could only introduce it in phases.
“Free education for TVET colleges will encourage kids to go and study there, and it tells them that one does not only have to have a degree,” he said.
“Infrastructure for these colleges must be up to scratch.”
Holomisa said there was no need for the president to deliberate over the report.
“The report highlights the commitment to free education, but this commitment was a case of crawling before one could walk,” he said.
The DA’s higher education spokesperson, Belinda Bozzoli, welcomed the commission’s professional work.
“The delay in the release of the report has already caused millions of university and TVET students considerable distress, as they were left to wonder about financing the start of the 2018 academic year.
“It has meant universities have not been able to set fees for next year.
“It is time for this uncertainty to end,” she said.