By – SAnews.gov.za
Higher Education and Training Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize says the announcement of an allocation to fee-free higher education is an investment in skills and the knowledge economy.
The Minister on Wednesday told SAnews the multi-billion rand allocation will finally make students feel vindicated after they put themselves at risk by taking to the streets to demand free higher education.
Minister Mkhize said this outside the National Assembly shortly after Finance Minister tabled his 2018 Budget, where he announced a R12.4 billion allocation to free higher education for this year.
“[The allocation to fee-free higher education] is exactly what I was hoping for. This is very important for the country because students took a high risk in terms of the “Fees Must Fall” [movement] and they know they were in conflict with the police…
“I think they have been vindicated in a sense that government has responded in ways which we knew we had to do it. But for some reason, we just didn’t see it as being feasible… but I am glad today South Africa will be investing in skills and the knowledge economy,” she said.
In his first Budget Speech, the Finance Minister announced that R57 billion will be channeled towards fee-free higher education and training over the next three years.
The Minister said the challenge now was to ensure that institutions of higher learning produced the kind of graduates who will give the private sector the kind of skills and knowledge that will boost the economy and also create a conducive environment, and make investors see South Africa as a destination of skilled and competent people.
“Our TVET [technical and vocational education and training] colleges… have to compete with countries like Germany, which has managed to cut down unemployment below 10%, mainly because the TVET colleges have produced skilled people who work in priority sectors like Mercedes Benz, BMW…” said Minister Mkhize.
A balanced budget during tough economic times
Meanwhile, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said Minister Gigaba’s budget, which saw him raising value-added tax (VAT) by a percentage point to 15% for the first time since 1993, was good, despite the fact that it was a tough balancing act.
“The budget is good given the economic situation we are in.
“We are hoping that the private sector may invest more in agriculture, especially in the food value chain so that we can get our black producers into the final stages like agro-processing.
“We are hopeful that with the political climate we are in, we may be able to grow the economy and be able to create jobs.”