Statement issued by Mr Nqabayomzi Kwankwa – UDM Deputy President and Chief Whip

The United Democratic Movement (UDM) has noted the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training released by the President on 13 November 2017. We welcome the Report’s reaffirmation of the clarion call and the need to make education accessible to all South Africans.

We, however, reject the Report’s recommendation that Income Contingency Loans be adopted as the new funding model for students, as this commodifies education. This system will create an army of young graduates who are debt-trapped long before they even get an opportunity to earn an income. On the other hand, South Africa’s unscrupulous banks will be cash flushed by charging students exorbitant fees and interest rates on risk-free loans that are fully backed up by government guarantees.

While we welcome the Report’s recommendation that there should be more resources allocated to the Vocational, Educational and Training Colleges (TVET) sector, we are concerned that throwing money at the problem without addressing the structural challenges facing this sector will compound the problem.  South Africa needs to redefine this sector and reposition it so that it is able to respond to the labour market demands whilst contributing to economic growth.

We agree that the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector is the missing link in the current education system and much more must be done to integrate it into the mainstream education system with very clear goals and objectives.

To this end, UDM does not find any concrete solution from the Heher Report and is disappointed that the Presidency took more than two months to release it and when it did release it eventually, it did so without a clear position and a clear way forward on it.  Instead, it took a bureaucratic approach by referring it to yet another structure, the Inter-Ministerial Committee, to process it. These delaying tactics are indication that Presidency is using education as a pawn in the political factional battles of the ruling party in the run-up to its elective congress in December.

The UDM believes that government should fund fee-free quality education by downsizing its executive, putting an end to the ever-increasing wasteful, irregular and fruitless expenditure, closing the tap on illicit financial flows and increasing corporate income tax, among others.