Things fall apart: Zuma's fee free chaos

Things fall apart: Zuma's fee free chaos

- Zuma’s surprise announcement of free higher education has caused much confusion and fear among those bracing to face the wave of students seeking registration for the 2018 academic year

- Some institutions begin registrations this week while others are due to follow suit next week

- EFF leader, Julius Malema has also called on those who missed opportunities to better their education due to poverty to apply to study

The state of general confusion which has already grown from the announcement before Christmas by President Jacob Zuma about a commitment to provide free higher education for poor and working-class students has escalated to fears of upheavals after the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Student Command announced that it would lead a mass walk-in registration drive at campuses.

As reported last week, tertiary institutions around the country are bracing themselves registration season as Zuma’s December 16 announcement threw the higher education sector into turmoil.

People have criticised the EFF for stoking the flames of an already inflammatory situation but the EFF student command reply that their actions are justified to ensure all deserving students benefit from Zuma’s move which aims to cover tuition, accommodation, food and transport costs.

As of the end of the first week of January the the government has yet to identify where the money for the free education will be coming from. All the treasury is saying is that Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba will provide details in his 2018/19 budget speech in February. Mayihlome Tshwete, Gigaba’s spokesperson, confirmed yesterday that Treasury was still trying to find the money within existing resources.

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Yesterday, SA Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande, who was previously the higher education minister, until the Cabinet reshuffle in October, added his voice to the discussion.

Speaking at the commemoration of late SACP leader Joe Slovo at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto, Nzimande said the party would oppose an increase in value-added tax, as well as the docking of finances from the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Public Investment Corporation, to fund free higher education. Such moves, he said, would be at the expense of the poor. “Where is the money going to come from?” asked Nzimande, adding that the SACP wanted to transform higher education, not “destroy” it.

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Meanwhile, Ahmed Bawa, the chief executive officer of Universities SA, said his association was worried about the sustainability of the free higher education model over the next two years as the numbers of beneficiaries were set to increase annually.

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