Free tertiary education for all is possible

National Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has told the Fees Commission that free tertiary education for all is possible.
Makgoba says countries like Cuba have shown that proper budgeting and prioritising make free education possible.

These submissions were contained in his presentation to the second phase of the Fees Commission hearings chaired by Judge Jonathan Heher in Pretoria.

Makgoba also indicated that the lack of a sustainable university fund has the potential to derail the goals of the National Development Plan. He says the problems facing the country today are mismanagement of public funds and corruption.

Makgoba told the commission that corruption is robbing this country’s youth of their future and free education. He also cautioned the commission not to believe excuses that there is no budget for higher education.

“You have people from the National Treasury that came here and told you that they have not budgeted for the fee increase; there is no money in the budget. You then go and listen to the Minister of Finance saying if we cut corruption by 25%, we have R40 billion. So, if you cut by 100%, you have R160 billion. Then you must ask yourself what resources do we require actually to deal with these so-called fees. You don’t actually require more than R40 billion, but you have it stuck somewhere because if I may use my word, we have to prioritise corruption.”

Makgoba says if education is a top national priority … its budget should also be a priority.

Makgoba says not only is the budget model that the government is following an outdated apartheid format, but it also makes it difficult for the current government to discharge its mandate enshrined in the Constitution and the Freedom Charter.

Makgoba says if education is a top national priority, its budget should also be a priority.

“What we have done and I’m going to be blunt here that we came into a new dispensation with a model of budgeting that was part of the past. And all we did was tinker around that budgeting framework even though we speak to the public there and say this is our priority. The priority is not accompanied by a fundamental shift in the resources that are allocated to what we define at the public as a priority.”

Professor Makgoba backed-up his argument for affordable free education by citing the Cuban model of budgeting. The Caribbean island nation invests more than 4% of its GDP in education.

“We are much richer than Cuba. Our economy is bigger than Cuba, but Cuba also gives free education into all its students in higher education. So, the priority is not money; the priority is choice, what you want to do. It’s got nothing to do with money. We have more money than Cuba, but they are spending a large percentage of their GDP on the education and investment of their children. We are spending 0.71% being a rich country, but we are able to do other things rather than invest in their future.”

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