Nzimande blames Mbeki’s ‘Neo-liberal’ GEAR for higher education funding crisis
Sipho Mabena | 2017-01-26 16:45:56.0
Thabo Mbeki. File photo.
Image by: Sunday Times.
Higher Education and Training minister Blade Nzimande has blamed former president Thabo Mbeki’s Growth‚ Employment and Redistribution economic policy for the current higher education funding crisis.
“I am not lamenting or blaming the rest of government. Except one thing that I need to say‚ the part of the reason why we are here is because our own government in the 1990s followed a problematic economic policy called GEAR. This is part of the price we are paying because one of the things that GEAR did was not to fund higher education adequately‚” he said.
Nzimande said the dangers of neo-liberal policies was that government grew the public higher education system‚ which he said was good in terms of numbers‚ but was not matched with infrastructure and funding of the main system.
“But now I am part of government and we must take collective responsibility for the situation which we are in‚” he said.
Nzimande was speaking in Pretoria on Thursday.
He said government had made significant progress in expanding access to higher education for the poor through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
He said this system‚ with all its challenges‚ has funded more than 1.7 million students since 1994.
Nzimande said last year alone‚ NSFAS supported about 480‚000 poor undergraduate students to access TVET colleges and universities — disbursing loans and bursaries totaling R14 billion.
He said this figure will rise to R15.2 billion this year.
“As the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement made clear‚ the government will provide an additional R9 billion for NSFAS over the three-year period ahead. In addition‚ most importantly‚ NSFAS will be funding more than 200‚000 first time and continuing students at TVET colleges in 2017‚” the minister said.
He said that government has also addressed the issue of historical debt of NSFAS-qualifying students who were registered in 2016‚ and were successful in their studies‚ but have accumulated debt with their institutions of higher education.
“They will be allowed to register in 2017‚” Nzimande said.