Stop looting and sneering at 'clever blacks', find the cash for university fees: MPs

Government has done nothing to address the university student fee crisis for the last ten months — only rhetoric and empty promises‚ says Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mkuleko Hlengwa.

Hlengwa was speaking in a parliamentary debate on student fees on Thursday as a matter of national importance.

He proposed that Parliament reprioritise government spending by amending the budget away from non-service oriented items to higher education investment.

Hlengwa also asked for the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to be audited to rid it of fraud‚ as well as for a full higher education cost audit ‚ and a parliamentary ad hoc committee to try and find a solution to the university fee crisis.

African National Congress MP Connie September said many strides have been made in higher education since democratisation.

“Higher education is no longer insular and elite-oriented. Much has been achieved despite the legacy of the past. We now have one million students in public institutions‚” September said.

Democratic Alliance MP Belinda Bozzoli warned that top overseas universities were ready to take top South African students and academics to study and lecture there‚ capitalising on fears about South African university collapse.

She added that everybody agrees that the government has messed up on the funding of higher education.

“Now that everybody agrees‚ what next? We estimate that the system at present only receives half the funding it really needs‚” said Bozzoli.

She added that it is obvious that the students can’t pay‚ that the private sector can and should assist‚ but it is unlikely that they will do so at the scale required – which is in the billions — and that the universities can’t pay as many of them are going into deficit.

 “That leaves only one candidate: the Government. President Zuma’s hapless outfit of losers and dubious characters‚ in fact‚ must pay‚” Bozzoli said.

“Yet‚ the very notion of Higher education is derided. Our president sneers at what he calls ‘clever blacks’. Graduates are told they have ‘wasted’ or ‘useless’ degrees. The myth persists that graduate unemployment is high whereas it is only at 5%. And so on.

 “We indulge this anti-intellectualism at our peril. It reveals us to be a small-minded society without a real vision for a developed future‚” she said.

“The DA was able to identify R2.7 billion in the 2016/17 budget which could have been transferred to assist poor students‚” said Bozzoli.

She said the DA proposes that the poorest students should be comprehensively supported‚ that the “missing middle” students should receive support‚ proportional to their financial standing‚ that better-off students should not receive government financial support for fees or other expenses and that university subsidies should move gradually towards the level of 50% of costs.

 Economic Freedom Fighters MP Leanne Mathys said in the absence of political will from the ANC government‚ students were literally on their own.

“Stop looting and doing dodgy things. Legislate for free education and decolonise the curriculum‚” Mathys proposed.



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