R57 billion set aside for free tertiary education

R57 billion set aside for free tertiary education

Government is taking strides towards achieving its ultimate goal of guaranteeing free tertiary education for all, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced during his budget speech on Wednesday.

Students march to Department of Higher Education 4
Photo: Samkelo Maseko

The largest reallocation of resources towards government's priorities was on higher education and training, totalling an additional funding of R57 billion to fund the phasing in of fee free higher education.

"As a result this is the fastest-growing spending category with an annual average growth of 13.7 %," says Gigaba.

Gigaba was forced to find money to fund free tertiary education following a surprise announcement by former president Jacob Zuma in December last year.

"This is an important step forward in breaking the cycle of poverty and confronting youth unemployment‚ as labour statistics show that unemployment is lowest for tertiary graduates," explains Gigaba.

"Government will phase in free higher education and training to students from poor and working class families," he says.

First year students with a family income of below R350 000 income per annum at universities and TVET colleges will be fully funded from the begining of the 2018 academic year.

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Returning students with National Student Financial Aid Scheme loans, will have their loans converted into bursaries.

Gigaba says an additional allocation to NSFAS will cover the full cost of study for undergraduate university and technical vocational education and training (TVET) college students from previously disadvantaged homes.

"This will be rolled out in subsequent years until all years of study are covered," explains Gigaba.

"Generations of student activists made enormous sacrifices - some giving up their lives to gain access to quality education," adds Gigaba.

In terms of basic education, Gigaba says R3.8 billion will be allocated to the school infrastructure backlogs grant to replace 82 inappropriate and unsafe schools, and provide water to 325 schools and sanitation to 286 schools.

The education infrastructure grant is also allocated R31.7billion over the medium term to build new schools, upgrade and maintain existing infrastructure, and provide school furniture.

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