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South Africa ‘cannot afford to provide free higher education’

A South African commission has said it is not feasible to offer free higher education. President Jacob Zuma has finally released the much awaited commission report which was written as a response to the so-called #FeesMustFall protests.


The executive summary of the report says the state cannot afford to provide free higher education:

There is insufficient financial capacity in the state to provide totally free higher education and training to all who are unable to finance their own education, let alone to all students, whether in need or not.

The commission, led by retired judge Jonathan Heher, was established in 2016 to look into whether South Africa could afford to provide free education for students in higher education.

It followed nationwide protests by students using the hashtag #FessMustFall.

Demonstrations began in October 2015 at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand when students blocked the entrance to the university campus, following signs that the institution would raise fees by 10.5% for 2016.

The protests led to the closure of some of the country’s top universities and prompted President Zuma to freeze tuition fees for a year.

President Zuma’s office denied reports that he is planning to announce free education for all, ignoring the Heher commission report.

The reports had said that the president had been looking for funds amounting to around $2,7bn (£2bn) from the treasury to fund higher education.

This led to the resignation of a senior official in the treasury citing interference by the presidency.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane also reinforced the idea that a wholly free tuition plan is not possible.

He said “Why should rich people be absolved from paying for their children’s education. If you are rich you must pay.”

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