Even though the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, is bragging about the fact that free tertiary education is already a reality in South Africa, the FF Plus does not view this as wise.
At a briefing on his Department's state of readiness for the 2020 academic year, which took place in Pretoria, the Minister announced that all students from poor and working-class homes who qualify for their respective courses will be funded by the government. The funding applies not only to study fees, but also to accommodation, transport and general expenses, where applicable.
While the FF Plus does acknowledge the value of tertiary education, the party does not believe that providing free tertiary education is a wise thing to do. The FF Plus realises that it will be extremely difficult to enforce the repayment of student loans, particularly of this extent, but the party still feels that when one receives something for free, one often does not value it as one ought to.
Thus, the party views compulsory internships as an appropriate way to obtain consideration from students as well as a golden opportunity for graduates to gain experience and start their career.
The FF Plus also views the extent of the financial support that the government will have to provide as a cause for concern. The fact that the private sector no longer has the confidence to make bursaries and loans available to deserving students is indicative of the country's economic decline.
In addition, it raises the question of whether the government has the ability to manage supply and demand in the labour market as well as the employees and banks do that respectively provide bursaries and loans.
Ironically enough, it is the government's interference in the economy, through enforcing transformation, that has caused the drop in business confidence. This forces the government to fund school-leavers' studies and in typical socialist fashion, the middle class is weakened.
This group earns too much to qualify for free education, they find it hard to obtain study loans from banks and yet they earn too little to pay for it out of their own pockets. Thus, the children of the students whose studies are currently being funded by the government will find themselves in the invidious position of the so-called lost middle.
The FF Plus commends the commitment and hard work of the thousands of officials in the Department of Higher Education, but fears that in the long term, the socialist foundation on which they are building will render it all undone.
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