Finance minister must dispel myth that fiscus can’t afford free higher education: students

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Finance minister must dispel myth that fiscus can’t afford free higher education: students

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\n Sipho Mabena | 2017-01-24 14:54:56.0\n \n \n \n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n \n\n \n\n\n \n \n

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\n \n \n \n Pravin Gordhan says the government has a nine-point plan to revive a sluggish economy.\n \n \n \n
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\n Finance minister Pravin Gordhan must dispel the myth that the fiscus cannot afford free higher education for all when he makes his presentation to the fees commission early next month week‚ students have said.\n

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Shaheed Mohamed‚ secretary of the Workers International Vanguard League‚ which made its submissions in Cape Town last year‚ said it was “an insult to students” for them to be told their government cannot invest in their future.

He said there were a number of mechanisms to make higher education free for all‚ such as increasing company taxes.

“During apartheid company tax was 43% and companies were willing to pay this to the atrocious apartheid regime. Our government reduced this to 28%. If this could be increased to 38%‚ the companies will still make a huge profit and fund free tertiary education for all‚” Mohamed said.

He said the excuse that “free for all” education would be subsidising the rich would be invalid because‚ what the rich would not be paying in tertiary fees they would be paying in taxes.

Zuma established the commission in January last year following months of countrywide violent protests on university campuses under the #FeesMustFall banner.

The commission is investigating the feasibility of introducing free education at universities‚ as demanded by students.

The commission was originally given eight months to complete its work‚ but the deadline was later extended to June 30 this year.

In the interim report‚ handed to Zuma in November last year‚ the commission said there was little to be achieved by making access to higher education more readily accessible unless systemic and other deficiencies in the basic education system were simultaneously addressed.

Fasiha Hassan‚ Wits SRC deputy secretary general‚ said the commission has had extensive submissions from various key role players and was best equipped to come up with a lasting solution to the higher education funding crisis.

She said the finance minister’s submission to the commission was key as it was most likely influence its decision.

“The consensus is that education is currently administered as a privilege when it is actually a public good. There are lots of constraints yes but we need a level of creativity to strike a balance‚” Hassan said.

She said the reality was that the country was facing flat economic growth‚ a high unemployment rate‚ poverty and inequality‚ saying education was fundamental in breaking this cycle.

“Transform education system to break this cycle. It is not the question of money. We cannot afford not to give education that priority‚” Hassan said.

She warned that higher education would be plunged into a crisis if the commission did not finalise its work by its extended deadline of June.

Musa Ndwandwe‚ the commission’s spokesperson‚ said Gordhan was scheduled to make his submissions this week but asked that this be moved to early February.

“This is to allow him to speak freely on the budget for higher education as he would have presented the budget in parliament‚” he said.

-TMG Digital/The Times

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