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Commission urges S.Africa to boost education funding

15 November 2017, 12:54 | Anna Nguyen

SA Presidency's website crashes prior to Fees Commission Report release

President Jacob Zuma addressing the media at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services Prison during the 40th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko 12 September 2017 Pretoria

Cape Town - As expected, a report of the commission which looked into the feasibility of making higher education free in South Africa, released by President Jacob Zuma on Monday, found that government alone would not be able to foot the sizeable bill for such a reality.

He said they reject the report and consider it a "get-rich-quick scheme" for banks by increasing their market share for students loans. Should the student fail to reach the required income threshold, government bares the secondary liability.

"The state can guarantee the loan or, better still, purchase the loan, so that the student becomes a debtor in its books..." It proposes an income contingent loan for those who can not afford within universities, in particular, the missing middle. "If the loan is not repaid within a specified number of years, the balance can be written off".

Peterson also supports the commission's recommendation of an ICL loans system for students who want to access higher education. It said the priorities in the Community Education and Training (CET) sector, TVET colleges and universities needed to be balanced.

Both the University of Pretoria (UP) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) have yet to make any decisions on whether they will be scrapping registration and application fees, or implement any other recommendations made in a report released yesterday. The Mail & Guardian has confirmed that Morris Masutha - an ex-boyfriend of one of Zuma's daughters - came up with the proposal.

The Presidency has denied this. If Zuma pushes his policy, it would undermine the Treasury's role in keeping a lid on government spending, wasteful expenditure and finding sustainable ways to grow the economy.

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The much anticipated report has been met with resounding disappointment by political parties, student organisations and activists.

It emerged this week that Zuma has been pushing for fully subsidised higher education for students from families with a combined income of no more than R350,000 a year.

At the time, Zuma said he was studying and working on the report's contents and consulting the relevant ministers, excluding Nzimande, who was sacked by Zuma in his cabinet reshuffle in October.

Zuma said on Monday that he chose to release the fees report "early", while a Presidential Fiscal Committee studies the report, so that members of the public can digest its content.

The president reportedly planned to reveal a R40-billion free higher education plan on Tuesday last week but was stopped in his tracks by senior officials in Treasury warning it would spur an economic crisis.

President Jacob Zuma will make final pronouncements once their work is done.

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