The government, working with universities, is exploring various options to meet the commitment made by Zuma of a zero percent increase in university fees in 2016
President Jacob Zuma is currently exploring the establishment of a formal commission of inquiry into the possibility of matters related to higher education in the country, including free education, it was announced on Sunday.
An announcement on the commission will be made in due course, the Presidency said.
Due regard would be given to existing studies that have been undertaken in the field of transformation of higher education, including broadening access for students from poor households, the Presidency said.
Read more: Zuma scraps fee hikes for 2016
The government, working with universities, is exploring various options to meet the commitment made by Zuma of a zero percent increase in university fees in 2016, presidential spokesperson Bongani Majola said.
Zuma made the commitment late last month following a wave of student protests against tuition fee hikes. Mediated by Zuma, an agreement was reached during a meeting between the government, university vice-chancellors, council chairpersons and student leaders on 23 October 2015.
Each university will be engaged to ensure that practical effect is given to the letter and spirit of the agreement, Majola said.
Meanwhile, Zuma said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) that the policy of free education has to be a reality in the country and that a task team has been put in place to assure that resources are available to make “free education” a reality.
He said the increase in higher education fees is a serious issue in South Africa as the majority of students come from poor backgrounds.
The government has to find long term solutions to assure that students have access to higher education institutions, Zuma said.
“This is an important investment to educate the citizens of the country,” said Zuma.
According to Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande, South African universities face a shortfall of about three million rand (about 222 million US dollars) after their plans to raise tuition fees were aborted.
While announcing that there would be no fee increases in universities for 2016, Zuma made no mention of where the resulting shortfall in university income would come from.
Free education is a promise made by the ruling African National Congress (ANC). In its 52th 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.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said during the student protests that resources do not permit the demand for free education. Enditem