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DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION MAKES SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IN NUMBER OF AREAS

The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training noted with appreciation the fact that the Department of Education and Training's strategic plan for 2015/16 to 2019/20 tabled by the department to the Committee, has been reviewed and such review has revealed that the department has made significant progress in a number of areas that include the prioritisation of funding to the marginalised children, enabling them to access post-school institutions.

Addressing Members of the National Assembly (NA) during the Budget Debate on Higher Education and Training, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education Ms Cornelia September and who is also a Member of Parliament, told the Minister of the Department that the curriculum offered by Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges is outdated and not relevant to the needs of industry.

She said there should be a national core curriculum which reflects the norms and values of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society and which will be relevant to both the needs of individuals, social and economic needs of society. We would want a curriculum which is based on the principles of cooperation, critical thinking and social responsibility and which empowers individuals to participate in all aspects of society, said Ms September.

On university programmes, Ms September said although university programmes received an increase on R2.4bn which is 6.1% increase in nominal terms or 0.19% in real terms, the budget allocation is not enough.

She said the existing budget cuts within the three sub-programmes equating to R1.3bn will impact negatively on service delivery within the programmes.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande who delivered the Budget Debate speech in the NA, highlighted the achievements of his department since it was established in 2009. Those achievements, according to Dr Nzimande, included the establishment of three new universities, a TVET colleges turnaround strategy, including significant increases in enrolments in the TVET colleges and the development of vision and policy of the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system as contained in the White Paper.

He said one of the biggest challenges for the 5th Parliament is the need to provide financial resources in order to build vibrant TVET colleges sector capable of absorbing millions of our unemployed youth and provide much-needed skills for our economy.

In fact, failure to adequately resource our TVET colleges may as well be the single biggest undoing in growing and developing an inclusive economy in our country, said Dr Nzimande.

On student funding, Dr Nzimande said: Since its inception the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has awarded about R72bn in loans and bursaries. More than two million students studying at South Africa's public universities and TVET colleges have been funded by NSFAS.

He admitted, however, the administrative challenges that are still facing NSFAS. He told the NA MPs that a total of 194 353 university students have been supported in the 2017 academic year � with 78 413 covering first time entrances and 115940 returning students. Similarly 123 332 TVET college students have already received support this year, said Dr Nzimande

According to Dr Nzimande, although there significant additional amounts of funding have been injected into NSFAS, there is still insufficient funding to support all students who require financial aid and who meet the requisite academic requirements at universities.

Prof Christian Msimang of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and NA MP told NA MPs that quality higher education is key to any developing and industrialised state. He said unfortunately this fact did not dawn on the minds of the South African government until 2015 when the White Paper on Higher Education that indicated the location of TVET colleges into the Department of Higher Education and Training was released.

After that progressive move, Prof Msimang said there were significant resolutions that were taken by the government and those included setting aside ten universities to offer TVET lecturing qualifications by 2019 to support the quality of tuition at TVET colleges.

This, according to Prof Msimang, helped South Africa realise the proposals in the National Development Plan (NDP) which stipulate the production of a certain number of technicians and artisans by 2019 in South Africa to meet the developmental standard set in the NDP. The IFP supported the 2017/18 Budget of the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

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