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Student protests outside the parliamentary precinct marked then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s medium-term budget speech last year. They marked the medium-term budget again this year, with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan making a point this time of going out to meet the students before delivering his speech. He also made a point of allocating a further R16.8bn over the next three years to close the student fee gap, over and above the R16bn he had added to the higher education budget in February. One result is that post-school education and training, which is now budgeted to grow at 9.2% a year over the next three years, has replaced social services to become the second-fastest growing item of government spending, after the cost of the state debt, with subsidies to universities to cover the cost of zero fee increases now set to grow at almost 11% a year and transfers to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme growing at 18.5%. At a time of countrywide student protests, Gordhan’s ...

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