Higher Education and Training Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize on Tuesday appealed to South Africans, and particularly the student movement, to give government the space to scrutinise the report of the commission of inquiry into the feasibility of free higher education, and to make policy decisions thereafter.
“The Commission has done considerable work processing information and views from a wide range of sources to inform their recommendations. However, it is very important that all of us – the public, students and institutions – fully understand that the report does not pronounce on anything. It does not contain decisions,” Mkhize told a media conference in Pretoria.
“It [the commission’s report] provides government with recommendations only. Decisions still have to be made by government. Government must have the space to conduct a thorough due diligence and to weigh up all aspects of the proposals, including their possible knock-on effects, so that the president can announce a way forward which is able to ensure that we empower future generations of young people through knowledge and skills, thereby empowering their families and communities too.”
Mkhize assured the nation that the policy decisions that will be made by President Jacob Zuma in the end will seek to find the elusive solution to the crisis in the education sector, which at times has crippled institutions of higher learning due to student protests and unrest.
“The policy decisions we make, having considered the recommendations in the report, must lead to sustainable solutions that will endure for many years to come. As a country, we have to move from the ad hoc situation we have had since 2015, to more certainty about these matters going into the future,” she said.
“I appeal to all constituencies, especially student leaders and management, to ensure a peaceful end to the academic year, including allowing examinations to be completed without disruption. The security and safety of staff and students on our campuses must not be compromised, the right of almost a million students across the country to conclude their academic year and get on with their lives cannot be sacrificed when we are so close to a resolution of the fees issue.”
Among other suggestions, the commission chaired by Justice Jonathan Arthur Heher, has recommended that South Africa increases its expenditure on higher education and training to at least one percent of the national gross domestic product.