Statement of the YCLSA on the release of the Heher Presidential Commission Report by President Zuma
14 November 2017
The YCLSA has noted the report by the Heher Commission released by the President on the 13th of November 2017. The disastrous report arrives ten years after the ANC resolved on free quality education in its 52nd National Conference in Turfloop 2007. Since then, students have been subjected to one commission after the other whose findings have never been considered before including those findings that were progressive like the Balintuli report.
These useless commissions convene at exorbitant amounts of tax payer's or worker's money to tell us whether free education is possible or not when the ANC already resolved that it is possible (and feasible) in Turfloop. Instead of implementing its resolution, the ANC-led government has taken students from pillar to post, postponing an important resolution that has serious impact on the future of this Country. More importantly, It is evident in this report that the counter -revolutionary forces of neo-liberal market fundamentalism are still very dominant and influential as far as shaping the content of our education system is concerned.
The Heher Presidential fee commission did not come up with modalities on how to implement free quality education for the poor but it instead threw free education outside the window and further entrenched commodification of higher education which is against our call for decomodification. We would like to state it unequivocally clear that we are not shaken by the outcomes of this report, we reject it with the contempt it deserves and we reiterate our call for free quality and compulsory education for the poor. Any report not talking about the rich paying for free education on behalf of the poor is not progressive and we will not agree with it. The Heher Commission overstayed its prescribed time only to develop a report that consolidates the unequal power relations and renders the poor to be the ones that subsidise private Universities using the ridiculous commercial-banks-led neo-liberal model they recommended.
We first express our disappointment on the conduct of the President on how he handled processes of this commission. This is the man who sat on this report for months and only released it now after being threatened with Court action and student protests. Zuma had claimed he is studying the report hence the time taken but when he finally released it, he still refers it to the Inter ministerial task team which must again come up with its own recommendations for him to finally pronounce on the report. We note the delaying tactics by a President who is not ashamed to gamble with the future of students and young people of this country.
When young people were calling for free quality education for the poor from the 2018 academic year, Jacob Zuma was busy enjoying the Saxonworld curry and dancing to factional songs affirming Cde Nkosazana Zuma which divided and weakened the ANC further.
Students are writing exams yet are very uncertain with what the future holds for them next year. Instead of focusing on this report way back when it was handed over to him, a man of misplaced priorities was busy reshuffling hard working ministers and leaving behind non performing scandalous ministers. This is the leader the ANC gave to South Africa, we are relieved his term as an ANC leader is coming to an end. We will hold him responsible for students who will fail their exams due to the anxieties that this report brings to them.
We are highly disturbed by the recommendation of the Commission which suggests a new "income contingency loan" system. This according to them is a "cost sharing model" of government guaranteed income contingency loans to students sourced from commercial banks. This will lock students into a cycle of debt and poverty and it will increase the gap between the poor and the rich. To date, repayment of NSFAS loans is a challenge to students who benefitted from it because of black tax and social economic reasons.
We therefore refuse to accept the logic that students must be able to pay banks back whose interest rates are likely to be in line with markets, repo rate and inflation therefore being way above what NSFAS beneficiaries are currently paying back. We view this as a clear grand project to enrich banks and private education providers. It therefore does not make sense that at a time we call for free quality education for the poor, we are presented with a capitalistic model which further punish the poor and place the burden of education funding on them. All these come under the guise of a pseudo radical economic transformation slogan.
The YCLSA has been calling for increased funding on education as an apex priority and to be on par with global trends in line with how other Countries allocate a particular GDP percentage to education funding. We outlined how apartheid spatial development of institutions of higher learning is still maintained by the current education system with historical imbalances in terms of infrastructure being clearly visible and we have made a call for historically disadvantaged institutions to be developed and made first class Universities. Student accommodation is still a challenge because of this lack of infrastructure development. We called for registration and application fees to be abolished in all institutions of higher learning. All these demands we submitted before the Heher Commission. While we appreciate that the Commission has conceded to these submissions we made, we are worried that all our funding proposals that we put forward and argued before this commission have been disregarded in their report.
We strongly believe that we must struggle to free education from the stranglehold of capital and its ideology. We must fight against the running of institutions of higher learning like businesses because if not stopped, it has capacity to reverse the gains that have been made so far. Institutions must be transformed from inaccessible ivory towers to people 's centres for people's education and empowerment. It is pointless to struggle for transformation of higher education whilst leaving class relations and patterns of property ownership untouched, hence our call for decomodification of education as we struggle for socialism in our lifetime.
The commodification and commercialisation of education remains the biggest challenge facing our higher education and further training sector. Most of the students who are largely black, poor and with working class background are denied access to higher education simply because they do not have the monetary means to buy education. Education is treated as a good which is sold to customers who are students in exchange for money. The consequence of this sold good is that it is only those who can afford that can acquire it. Understanding the economic condition of our people and knowing that education should be a fundamental right, we need to develop systems and opportunities that allow the poorest of the poor to attain education without the burden of the cost. This is what the Heher Commission failed to do, instead it invited banks to come and make profits too like Universities have been doing.
Education must be rescued from its current status of a profit making good. Fees have increased in the past years above the inflation rate and above the increase of salaries and wages, this made education unaffordable for the working class and the poor. Tuition fees must be abolished and a grant be introduced for students. The responsibility to take a student to an institution of higher learning must belong to the nation and society as a whole and not a family or a student
We maintain that the private sector must be able to contribute through a corporate education tax charged progressively on the size of profit they make with larger monopolies contributing more. While different corporate entities have been able to contribute towards education through their social investment policies, we need legislated tax that compels all of them to fund education not at their discretion but by law. Finance capital through institutions and big monopolies like the South African Chamber of Commerce, banks, the South African Banking Council and many others must contribute in covering the cost of education not in giving students loans. The Commission exonerated the private sector off this responsibility and we appeal to parliament and the government to consider this proposal of ours.
We will work with all progressive organisations in championing the call for free education for the poor. We warn the ANC led government not to take students for a ride one more time.
Issued by the YCLSA
078 642 9004
Molaodi wa Sekake
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