Student protests
The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) has come up with innovative ways on how to fund higher education. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

The Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) has come up with proposals on how government and the private sector could help solve the higher education funding crisis.

HETN said it supported the demands made by the South African Union of Students (SAUS) and various students organisations on matters that needed to be addressed within the higher education sector.

The SAUS has more than 15 demands among those is the demand for free quality education for the poor and the missing middle, and the suspension of academic exclusion for the 2021 academic year because of the impact of Covid-19.

The SAUS called for a national shutdown of all 26 public universities from Monday.

“All 26 university SRCs have supported this decision unanimously. The shutdown will continue until our demands are met,” said SAUS deputy secretary-general Sibusiso Twala.

“We support the national call to fund the higher education sector through mass-disciplined protest free from destruction of infrastructure and unnecessary use of force and subsequent loss of life due to reckless use of force by the SAPS,” said the HETN.

The organisation called for Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande, university councils and vice-chancellors to use innovative approaches to finding common ground in responding to the demands of students which were genuine and valid.

“The state has invested billions of taxpayer funds in recapitalising the NSFAS as well as funding new university infrastructure in poorer universities to facilitate increased access. These investments have not been fairly matched by the business sector,” HETN said.

Some of the proposals include:

Raising the Skills Development Levy (SDL)

In lieu of the need for increased funding for the NSFAS, the network calls on government and all role-players at Nedlac for the amendment to the Skills Development Levies Act of 1998 to increase in the skills development levy by 1% which needs to be ring-fenced exclusively to recapitalise the NSFAS.

Utilisation of university reserves

Those public institutions of higher learning which hold massive reserves such as the Universities of Cape Town, Pretoria; Stellenbosch and Free State due to benefits accruing from racist historic subsidy formulae by the former apartheid state need to assist in the recapitalisation of the NSFAS for the benefit of poor students to co-fund the annual allocations of the state.

All employed graduate to pay their NSFAS loans

The organisation further calls on all graduates who have historically benefited from NSFAS funding to settle and honour their NSFAS loan obligations to ensure the funding of future generations of students.

“We reiterate that the state supported by business needs to increase investments into higher education to enable the country to attain its NDP Vision 2030 targets. Only with the requisite investments can the country attain the objectives of the National Development Plan Vision 2030.”

Written by Zodidi Dano IOL