We wonder if Jacob Zuma’s promise of free tertiary education – made last year as a cynical attempt to bolster his camp ahead of the ANC Elective Conference – might not turn out to be a cruel torment for thousands of young people hoping for a better life.
Promising free education or financial assistance has greatly swelled the numbers of matriculants trying to get into institutions of higher learning this year.
But, even when they have been accepted for courses, and even when they have obtained funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), many students have found themselves stumbling at the major hurdle – suitable accommodation.
We reported this week on the heart-breaking scenes which are playing out at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as scores of students sleep illegally at night in lecture halls, laboratories and even toilets because they can find no other place.
One young man we spoke to is in the third year of living this hand-to-mouth existence.
Even more frightening for those of us who believe we live in the most sophisticated and advanced city on the African continent, was the revelation in our coverage that 4 000 students at UJ alone are being fed two meals a day by a humanitarian aid organisation, Gift of the Givers.
It is truly stunning to realise we live in the midst of a humanitarian crisis on par with the earthquakes, tsunamis and famines, which are the normal deployments of Gift of the Givers’ aid.
These young people are the future of our country and they deserve to be given the best start possible in life.
They should not have to worry about where they will lay their heads and where their next meal is coming from. This is where our taxpayer money should be going. We hope Cyril Ramaphosa is listening …