#Budget2017: R5bn more after #FeesMustFall
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Pretoria – Government has allocated an additional R5 billion to tertiary education in this year's budget, despite an ongoing constrained environment.
This is in addition to the R32 billion government set aside last year in a bid to bridge a funding gap that saw students take to the streets to protest the high cost of education.
However, Gordhan also made it clear during his Budget speech to Parliament on Wednesday that this is a collective problem, and not one government can solve on its own.
In addition, this allocation will only be made in 2019/20 – the last year of the three-year budget period.
The #FeesMustFall campaign, which kicked off just before the 2015 examination round started, gathered momentum last year, with many protests turning violent at campuses across the country. The South African Police Service was also accused of being overly excessive in its use of force to quell the demonstrations.
This year, students have turned their attention to the high cost of textbooks. Fee increases have been capped at 8 percent, while students who come from households bringing in less than R600 000 a year will not pay increases.
In 2016, the entire post-school sector received R68 billion in funding, of which R11.42 went to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and R28 billion in allocations to universities.
Last October, National Treasury said it would grow these amounts at an expanded rate.
Gordhan says "government recognises the needs articulated by students in universities and TVET colleges".
He notes, as the economy grows, it will be able to do more to finance an expansion in tertiary education opportunities and improvements in student funding.
Gordhan also notes progress is being made in finding a solution, which includes that the Heher Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training will complete its work by June this year.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education, led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, is engaging all stakeholders to discuss the issues, he says.
“Civil society initiatives involving business, churches and other organisations have created space for a diversity of options to be considered. The president has invited stakeholders to participate in processes that are underway so that all views are heard.”
Yet, Gordhan says, given the magnitude of student funding requirements, it is imperative that there is a clear roadmap towards a better higher education and training system. “It must clearly indicate how society will achieve access, opportunity, financing and support for students in the university and further education sectors.”
Several broad principles will assist in finding the way forward:
• Government is determined to address the challenges identified in post-school education and training in a phased manner. Resources will be taken into account in determining the pace with which these can be addressed.
• Government stands ready to engage with education stakeholders and adapt financing arrangements as may be required in future years, within the scope of available resources. Universities, students and education stakeholders share responsibility for improving access and quality and the diversity of higher education and training provided, within a framework of consultation rather than confrontation.
• A growing contribution is needed from employers and industry through funding of bursaries, internship opportunities and research programmes, recognising that this is the foundation of future productivity and technology advances.
“Together, we will find a way forward that meets student funding needs fairly and sustainably, so that rising numbers of graduates can contribute positively to inclusive growth and transformation of the economy.”