Speaking at the Second National Higher Education Transformation Summit in Durban Ramaphosa said: “Transformation is still a challenge that is with us and will probably be with us for a number of years”.
He said that education was a priority of the government and the fact that it set aside almost R10 billion towards the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to help students through their tertiary studies was proof of the government’s commitment.
He said that while there had been an increase in the NSFAS funding, the increase in university fees had exceeded inflation.
Ramaphosa said that the current funding model for universities was established in the early 2000s, but had failed to take account of a number of factors, especially location, which played a role in a university’s ability to source funding.
He said the financial plight of the previously disadvantaged universities, which were mostly located in rural areas, needed to be addressed without impacting the currently better resourced universities.
The deputy president said that the rural universities had additional cost factors that impacted on students, such as a lack of accommodation and transport.
Ramaphosa said major progress had been made since the end of apartheid, but there was still more to be done to address the demand and need for tertiary education.
He lamented black participation rates at universities and said they should reflect the demographics of the country. There needed to be more pack professors, researchers and senior university administrators, with an increase in the number of women filling these positions.
“It cannot be right that usually our institutions are just populated by one racial group,” Ramaphosa said, adding there was a need to create tertiary institutions that had a South African culture, representative of all in the country.
He said that transformation of the universities could not be achieved by excluding people. It needed to be inclusive.
“Access to higher education should be a right and not a privilege. Our youth want to be educated,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the government wanted to see 70 percent of the population obtaining a tertiary qualification.