Free education unfeasible, says leaked report
The Presidency says report will be released immediately once consultations with relevant ministries are finalised
The long-awaited university fees commission report is expected to be released by President Jacob Zuma this week, but a leaked version of it saying that free education is unfeasible has already sparked fear of more student protests.
City Press reported that the commission, headed by Judge Jonathan Heher, had ruled out universal free education.
Instead, the commission’s report makes proposals that include a “cost-sharing model”, which would entail increased government subsidies, as well as a “fair and affordable” fee structure regulated by the Council on Higher Education.
Student protests demanding the release of the report shut down some campuses last week and student organisations have been gearing up for further protests this week.
Presidency spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said consultations with relevant ministries were at an advanced stage and were expected to be finalised this week.
“The president will release the report immediately thereafter,” said Ngqulunga.
The South African Students Congress (Sasco) will march on Parliament and the Union Buildings on Tuesday to demand the report be released, while protests have continued at the University of the Free State, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Cape Town.
Sasco did not comment at once on the City Press report, but indicated it was aware through sources that there would be no free education.
Its president, Thabo Moloja, said that if this was the case, Zuma must publicly reject that finding and stipulate another way forward. “If the judge got it wrong, he [Zuma] must say so and that he is not going to accept that there is no free education,” Moloja said.
There should have been more engagement on the commission’s report, as the majority of submissions had argued against universally free education, Education for Social Justice Foundation deputy chairman Hendrick Makaneta said.
“A lot of those voices were against free, high-quality education, but it is not too late,” Makaneta said.
The foundation would write to the Presidency and the new higher education minister to request further engagement on issues such as private sector contributions, he said.
The leaking of the report would cause further confusion and concern, said DA higher education spokeswoman Belinda Bozzoli. More protests should be expected.
However, a handful of measures would be popular, such as the scrapping of registration fees, she said.
“But the full report would have to indicate where universities would get their cash flow for the first three months of the academic year without it,” Bozzoli said.