14 November 2017

South Africa: Minister Mkhize Welcomes Fees Commission Report

Higher Education and Training Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize has welcomed the decision by President Jacob Zuma to release the Heher Fees Commission report to the public.

"This [report] will provide an opportunity for the academic, student, and broader communities to study it and to familiarise themselves with the detail of Judge Heher's findings, proposals and alternatives scenarios," Minister Mkhize said on Tuesday.

The Heher commission, which was released on Monday, recommended, amongst others, that all tertiary students in South Africa be given access to State guaranteed bank loans, which they would only pay back once they start earning a certain income.

The Commission of Inquiry into the feasibility of making higher education and training fee-free in South Africa has recommended that all 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 (ICL) sourced from commercial banks.

Minister Mkhize said that she would work closely with the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding, led by the Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, and the Presidential Fiscal Committee, led by Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, who have been tasked by the President to process the report in detail.

The Minister emphasised that it is important that the public, including the students and institutions- fully understand that the report does not pronounce on anything.

"It does not contain decisions. It provides government with recommendations only. Decisions still have to be made by government.

"Government must have a space to conduct a thorough due diligence and to weigh up all aspects of the proposals, including their possible knock-on effects, so that the President can announce a way forward which is able to ensure that we empower future generations of young people through knowledge and skills, thereby empowering their families and communities too.

"The policy decisions we make, having considered the recommendations in the report, must lead to sustainable solutions that will endure for many years to come. As a country, we have to move from the ad hoc situation we have since 2015, to more certainty about these matters going into the future," said Minister Mkhize.

The Minister also appealed to all constituencies, especially student leaders and management to ensure a peaceful end to the academic year, including allowing examinations to be completed without disruption.

SA, Mauritania explore cooperation in higher education

Meanwhile, Minister Mkhize hosted her counterpart from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Dr Sidi Ould Salem, who is the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

The meeting aimed to explore opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in the areas of higher education, technical and vocational training, as well as English language tuition.

The two-day bilateral engagement held from Monday at the Universities South Africa represented a significant strengthening of the already very cordial ties between South Africa and Mauritania, as a West African member of the Franco-Arabic speaking group of Maghreb countries.

"I am delighted to host Dr Salem, as we explore focus particularly on how South Africa may be able to assist Mauritania with the teaching of English, and on deepening research collaboration between our two countries.

"We are also both confident that our exploratory talks will not only lead to great co-operation between our two countries in the fields which we as Minsters take particular responsibility for, but also go a long way in advancing much needed co-operation between the Maghreb and Southern Africa more generally," the Minister said during a media briefing following the meeting.

The engagements kicked-off on Monday, with site visits to the Ekurhuleni West TVET College on the East Rand, followed by a tour of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Garankuwa.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ministers attended Skills Dialogue hosted by Minister Mkhize, before they had a meeting with vice chancellors at the Universities' South Africa offices in Pretoria.

Dr Salem said the problems encountered in the higher education are almost the same in all the countries, but the countries can learn from each other.

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