The government has raided the National Skills Fund (NSF) to meet the promise of a no-fee increase for students at tertiary institutions, jeopardising the fund’s future investment income and forcing it to axe projects aimed at developing much-needed artisans. Details of the trade-off the government has been forced to make by the student protests that began in 2015 are laid bare in the NSF’s 2017/2018 annual report, which was tabled in parliament on Monday. It shows the NSF was forced to finance 50% of the no-fee increase for 2016 and the entire no-fee increase for 2017 from its accumulated surpluses, which ran to R6.56bn, or 59% of its accumulated surplus. Since this money had already been earmarked for future projects, it has been forced to put these initiatives on ice. These include R1.5bn for artisan development, and R1.5bn more intended for improving the post-school education and training system, including artisan training at Technical and Vocational Education Training colleges.<...

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