The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has labelled President Jacob Zuma's announcement to implement free education as an historic one. However, it claims the Heher Commission Report sought to create profit.
The NYDA feels that the commission was hijacked by banks seeking to replace NSFAS and put students further in debt. NYDA also disagrees with claims by government that it cannot afford free education.
"We believe that the commission was hijacked by the banks for their own commercial interests. The commission report sought to create profit out of the misery of the poor in this country. It sought to replace NSFAS with banks, thereby indebting our students, their parents and government for life", it said.
In December, Zuma announced that government would fully subsidise higher education for poor and working-class students.
NYDA rejected the commission report and wrote to the presidency, asking them to consider the following:.
- Revamp NSFAS from a loan to a full grant
What does this mean? When granted a NSFAS loan, students are required to pay back the money used to fund their academic year –– because it was a loan.
What the NYDA wanted was for the loan to be converted into a grant (like a social grant to pensioners), which would mean students would not have to repay the money.
- Scrap registration fees
The NYDA wants registration fees scrapped completely, mainly because some students cannot afford the prices of administration. Here are just some of the registration fee in South Africa's national universities.
University of Johannesburg -- R3,870
University of Cape Town -- R1,250
Durban University of Technology -- R3,690
University of Pretoria -- R5,000
University of Witwatersrand -- R9,340
- Wipe out historical debt
This means NSFAS historical debt should be wiped out.
The rest of the suggestions included:
- Increasing the threshold for the poor from R122,000 per annum to R350,000;
- Defining the "missing middle" to be those who are from household who earn R600,000 per annum;
- Increasing education funding to 1 percent of the total GDP. This is derived from the fact that there can be no developmental state that has education as its apex priority not allocating enough resources to education;
- Creating a central application system for all students with the same qualifying criteria for access;
- Using public works buildings across the country as student residences and ensuring that there are adequate beds for all students in the country.
The NYDA also condemned the actions of ministers sceptical of free education, and those who pose the question: "Where will the money come from?"
"We have taken note that some sections of society (mostly affluent) have met this announcement with scepticism, and others have gone to great lengths to label this announcement by government as populist and political posturing."
"We condemn such attitudes with the contempt that [they deserve]. It's quite disappointing that even former ministers who were charged with the responsibility of realising free education as per the manifesto of the ruling party have now come out openly that in their shoulders [sic], this would not have happened."
To read the full statement by the NYDA: click here