Nzimande: Funding of higher education remains a huge challenge

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Blade Nzimande
Blade Nzimande
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Funding of higher education remains a huge challenge

Bonile Khanyi

The Department of Higher Education and Training has called for a co-ordinated funding mechanism across higher education institutions and a lending hand from the private sector.

This comes after the Auditor-General raised its concerns about the sustainability of tertiary education after it incurred nearly R1 billion in irregular expenditure in the past financial year.

In the Department’s 2016-17 Annual Report, which was discussed on Wednesday in Parliament, Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu pointed out that the department continued to carry substantial liabilities, which saw a major increase in 2017.

According to recent media reports, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said during the week that his department had been perversely underfunded for a long time and that this has affected the ability of the department to carry out some of its mandated responsibilities.

Nzimande said the department can’t give money to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, train college lecturers or open up regional offices because they don’t have the money to do so.

Speaking to Inside Education on Friday, South African Further Education and Training Student Association (SAFETSA) President Yonke Twani said that the minister has been calling for the private sector to work closely with the department.

“I still remember a time when we called on the private sector to come and form part of council in TVET colleges, so that when we try and develop a responsive and relevant curriculum, we are also able to consolidate their position as private sector so that whatever qualification that we provide, suits their needs,” said Twani.

When asked about what his views were on the future of TVET colleges in South Africa, Twani said the sector has a long way to go.

“Looking at the TVET’s in 2011 when they were still called FET colleges fast-forward to 2017, we’ve seen progressive changes, but it’s still far for the sector to reach its destination,” said Twani.

He further said if the country really wants to see TVET colleges become institutions of success, three issues need to be dealt with.

“The first issue we need to deal with is the issue of curriculum and when we deal with the issue of curriculum, we must first check the needs of the country. Currently the NPD speaks very clearly about the importance of skills development. So, we really need to zoom in into those scare skills and TVET colleges must not provide outdated programmes, they must be in line with the mandate of the NDP,” said Twani.

“Secondly, on the issue of funding, as much as the department is not given enough funding, it is of paramount importance that government plays a role.”

“If Eskom requested treasury to increase their budget for issues related to Medupi power station, why can’t we engage the same treasury? And if treasury is able to respond to the issue of #FeesMustFall, why can’t they respond to the need of adequate and sufficient funding of TVET colleges?”

“Lastly, TVET colleges need to come up with strategic marketing ways because the ways in which TVET colleges are marketed, is not really giving people a clear direction of the mission and objectives of TVET colleges.”

“If you go to rural areas today, people still don’t understand the rational or the main idea behind the formation of TVET colleges. We still have a perception that TVET colleges are dumping sites for those who failed Grade 12 or for those who could not be enrolled in a university. So, it’s important that as TVET stakeholders, we make sure that we come up with strategic marketing solutions that work.”

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