Pretoria — Education is the single most important element that can take South Africa forward, says Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe.
The Minister addressed a public lecture on education as a human right held at Sol Plaatjie University in the Northern Cape. The Minister said education underpins development in all sectors of society.
"It is through education that the poor can transform into becoming significant players in the country's economy. Quality education will produce skilled professionals, innovators and contributors to economic development.
"It remains an apex priority in the hierarchy of government programmes. Since the dawn of freedom and democracy in 1994, government prioritised education as a means to transform the lives of young South Africans for a brighter and more prosperous future," said Minister Radebe.
The Minister, as a leader of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Higher Education, said the task team has so far consulted a variety of stakeholders and as an interim solution, it made firm commitments and concrete recommendations, some of which are already in the process of implementation.
The purpose of the task team is to find ways of expediting the development of an efficient and sustainable model to address the funding challenge of South Africa's students in universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges.
"As government, we are unequivocal in our commitment to providing financial assistance to the financially needy and the missing middle.
"Government has allocated a total amount of R77.5 billion to post-school education and training this year. Amidst the education crisis last year, allocation to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was increased exponentially, as it now stands at a staggering R14.582 billion.
"One of the ongoing discussions in the task team is the possible conversion of NSFAS from a partial loan to a full student grant for disenfranchised students. Our focus must be to safeguard the right to education and encourage academic excellence amongst our students. This is the true meaning of responsible leadership," Minister Radebe said.
The Minister said it was fitting that the public lecture was held at Sol Plaatje University, and said the South African government prides itself in the existence of the institution, as it is the first university established under the democratic government.
Solomon Thekisho Plaatje (9 October 1876 - 19 June 1932) was a South African intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer. Plaatje was a founder member and first General Secretary of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which became the ANC.