The Higher Education and Training Minister must provide leadership on higher education crisis
The DA calls for the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Hlengiwe Mkhize, to intervene in the registration processes at higher education institutions across the country as the process is currently at risk of devolving into chaos as a result of President Jacob Zuma’s reckless announcement and the EFF’s inflammatory calls.
The DA has previously noted the potentially disastrous consequences of Zuma’s announcement that government will introduce fully subsidised free higher education and training for poor and working-class undergraduate students. These warnings are now ringing true as the EFF has made an inflammatory call for academically eligible students to report to higher education institutions of their choice to demand to be registered for study in 2018.
The DA notes the failure of Zuma and Mkhize to provide strong leadership in this matter and we accordingly call on her to decisively intervene in order to avoid a potentially violent crisis. Mkhize must now provide unequivocal stance on whether she supports Zuma’s announcement of free education and what her department intends to do to mitigate against registration processes turning violent.
Zuma’s announcement was ostensibly made without consulting National Treasury or the Department of Higher Education and Training. It merely served as a tool of cheap politicking, aimed at scoring points ahead of the ANC conference in an attempt to salvage the legacy of his failed presidency. Similarly now, the EFF’s ill-considered call for walk-in registrations evidences a failure to understand that placements at higher education institutions across South Africa have not increased - higher education institutions generally formulate their intake figures at least a year in advance in order to ensure that resources are adequately allocated to meet the needs of incoming students.
Demanding that higher education institutions accept walk-in registrations is in direct contravention of many institutions’ registration procedures and places undue strain on their systems and resources. In addition, given the precedent for walk-in registration processes to turn violent, these calls place students’ safety at risk.
The DA believes all deserving students should have access to higher education and that financial support should be provided for poorer students within the confines of the law and the country’s available resources. Quality higher education for South Africa’s youth can no longer be used as a tool for cheap politicking – political parties must not allow Zuma to cause division as he departs. Moreover, students should refrain from participating in activities that go against the rules of tertiary institutions – registrations must take place in accordance with higher education institutions’ rules and procedures.
Statement issued by Prof. Belinda Bozzoli - DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education & Training, 3 January 2017