17/05/2017 08:25 SAST | Updated 17/05/2017 08:25 SAST

Nzimande Wants A Probe Into A Shortage Of Black Professors

"Some say this is because black South Africans start work straight after their first degree to help their families; others say ... gatekeeping is the problem."

Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Blade Nzimande.

Black professors are so scarce in South Africa that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande will set up a ministerial task team to find out what is holding black academics back.

Of the country's university professors, 83 percent were white, he told reporters at Parliament on Tuesday, ahead of his department's budget vote for 2017/18.

"This worries me very deeply. Some say this is because black South Africans start work straight after their first degree to help their families; others say that's not true -- that gatekeeping is the problem."

He had asked Prof David Mosome to chair the ministerial task team. Mosome is a former learner support and student affairs vice principal at the University of South Africa.

Nzimande said until these skewed demographics were fixed, there would be no decolonisation in higher education.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training (Fees Commission) should be available at the end of June.

President Jacob Zuma established it to investigate the feasibility of free tertiary education, as university students protested countrywide to demand that university fee increases, and ultimately all fees, be scrapped.

Nzimande compromised by not raising fees for 2016, but capped fee increases for 2017 at 8 percent.

He expressed relief over the "relatively stable" start to 2017 after the turbulence of the past 18 months, but warned that the job of transforming post-school education was far from over.

One of the department's projects was the historically disadvantaged institutions development grant of R2,5 billion over five years, to help universities realise their full potential.

The conundrum of what to do about unemployed graduates continued, but Nzimande said the solution lay in companies offering internships, and for universities and colleges becoming more entrepreneurial.

Nzimande said the National Student Financial Aid Scheme had awarded R72bn in loans and bursaries since its inception as the Tertiary Education Fund of SA in 1991.

In 2017, the NSFAS helped 194 353 students: 78,413 first-time entrants and 115,940 returning students.

At least 123,332 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students received support from NSFAS. He said the scheme would not be privatised by banks, as rumoured, under his watch.

He was worried about the shortage of student accommodation and planned to find out which landlords had cornered this market.