A parliamentary oversight visit yesterday to the Urban FET college in Kimberley revealed that more than 200 learners are yet to receive their course certificates. Some of these certificates have been outstanding since 2009.
The school principal, in reply to a question put to him, revealed that the college was still awaiting certificates from Minister Blade Nzimande's Higher Education and Training Department (DHET). He also revealed that many students were still awaiting their exam results, without which they could not register.
This incompetence by the DHET is not just preventing students from continuing their studies, put also putting at risk the job prospects of students who have completed their studies. Without their certificates, students cannot apply for jobs, even though they have completed their courses successfully.
The inept handling of the certificate issue under Minister Nzimande's leadership has been a long-standing saga:
In June 2012 Minister Nzimande admitted to the DA that 22 190 FET certificates had been outstanding for over six months. He committed to fixing the problem by 31 July.
A DA fact-finding exercise involving a sample of FET colleges in August revealed, however, that the Minister had not met his commitment to deliver the outstanding certificates.
In response to a DA parliamentary question the Minister then admitted that 8 580 Sector Education Training Authorities (SETA) certificates had also been outstanding for more than six months.
The DA has requested on two occasions that Minister Nzimande be called before the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education to account for his failure to issue certificates. His refusal to appear before the committee, despite being requested to do so by the committee chairperson, smacks of arrogance.
I will therefore write to the chairperson of the Higher Education Portfolio committee, Adv. Motswane Ishmael Malale, to request that an agenda item be resolved in committee to call the Minister before the committee as a matter of urgency. He must outline his plans to address the widespread problem with the issuing of certificates and answer questions on who will be held accountable for failing our learners.
Minister Nzimande's department cannot be trusted to perform one of its most basic competencies, yet he is seeking to centralise the entire higher education sector under his control. Instead of trying to consolidate his power, the Minister should rather concentrate on doing his job and providing students with the certificates they need in order to move on with their lives.
Annelie Lotriet, Shadow Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training