More students are leaving university having incurred thousands of rand in debts. Picture: Nataliya Vaitkevich / Pexels
More students are leaving university having incurred thousands of rand in debts. Picture: Nataliya Vaitkevich / Pexels

Tertiary education is becoming a debt penalty for students

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Oct 11, 2021

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Education activist Hendrick Makaneta is calling on the government to be proactive and address the tertiary fee shortfalls which land thousands of students in debt.

Makaneta, who is also the deputy chairperson of the Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa, said government should address the shortcomings in the education sector and align the curriculum with the growing needs of the global economy before it is too late.

“A degree costs more every year and it is skyrocketing above the annual inflation rate. Today a single student is expected to pay two accounts, one for historic debt and the other for current debt. A single student can owe close to R200 000, an amount which equals an annual salary of an average professional in South Africa,” he said.

Education activist said despite the establishment of the National Commission on Higher Education, 26 years ago, higher education remained a highly contested terrain. Adding that the challenges of funding remained dire for students who were regarded as middle class.

“Although the government has injected billions of rands in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), the reality is that there are just too many qualifying students who remain outside the bracket of those that are catered for.

“The NSFAS, much as it must be applauded, also pays heavily for some of the qualifications which will become obsolete soon especially because they are not aligned with the needs of the mainstream economy,” Makaneta stressed.

He explained that the reason why unemployment was rife was because some careers sectors were dying down.

“The result is that graduates are now overburdened in that they are unemployed and sit with debt that was accumulated during their years of study.

“South Africa should move swiftly to transform the curriculum and bring it in line with the growing needs of the global economy,” he said.

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