South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Tuesday reaffirmed its commitment to free education for the working class and the poor.
This came after President Jacob Zuma on Monday released the much-anticipated Report on the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education and Training in the country.
The report, however, falls short of making higher education and training fee-free, raising fears that a new spate of student protest might erupt.
While welcoming the release of the report, the ANC said there are a number of areas that are of concern to the party.
“The report misses some key tenants of the progressive agenda we seek to drive,” the party said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.
The party rejected recommendations in the report that all undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at both public and private universities and colleges, regardless of their family background, be funded through a cost-sharing model of government guaranteed Income-Contingency Loans sourced from commercial banks.
Under the cost-sharing model, commercial banks should issue government guaranteed loans to the students that are payable by the student upon graduation and attainment of a specific income threshold. Should the student fail to reach the required income threshold, the government bares the secondary liability.
“The ANC calls on the government to reject the proposal for a cost sharing model which will further indebt students and the different classification of students,” ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.
The ANC will further study the comprehensive report and engage the government on how practically and urgently the party can advance the attainment of fee-free higher education for the working class and the poor, said Kodwa.
Free education is a policy position of the ANC, which expects to undertake discussions on the modalities to implement it, according to Kodwa.
Following widespread student protests over tuition fee increases in 2015, Zuma established a Commission of Inquiry in 2016 to investigate the feasibility of making higher education and training fee-free in the country.
Students are threatening to launch fresh protests nationwide to press their demand for free higher education.
Free education is a promise made by the ANC. In its congress in 2007, the party made a resolution to have free education in seven years. The ANC has been criticized for failing to keep its promise.
But according to the report, there is currently no capacity for the state to provide free tertiary education to students who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students. Enditem