News / Opinion / Columns

Yadhana Jadoo
3 minute read
4 Jan 2018
6:33 am

#FreeEducation: Zuma needs to do his sums

Yadhana Jadoo

President Jacob Zuma has been resolute to go out with a bang, no matter the consequences.

Resolution by definition is a firm decision to do or not do something. Every year people mark the beginning of their 365 days with goals to be reached and better choices to be made.

They simply try to better their lives. And as we enter a new year – marked with new beginnings – one must ask: are things going to get better, or worse? A resolution and an offer that cannot be refused are two different things, with a resolution being a personal choice and the latter given to you on a platter.

It is with this is mind that thousands of marginalised first-year university hopefuls will most certainly take advantage of the proposition of free education. This offer was made by President Jacob Zuma last month ahead of the ANC’s national elective conference.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa has dubbed Zuma’s declaration a “populist Hail Mary pass” – but one that does have its merits if implemented adequately.

One must question the timing of Zuma’s announcement as he exited his seat as ANC president and inevitably as head of state. Was this part of Zuma’s own resolution for 2018? Was it to ensure that, as he departs, he leaves behind a legacy of an anti-elitist, moral and principled president who made sure SA’s future leaders were given the future they deserve?

But did Mr President do his homework properly? Yes, free education can be achieved – but only if planned properly. Universities South Africa (USAf) CEO Ahmed Bawa alluded to institutions needing a full year to plan the rollout – but instead have only been left with two to three weeks to do so.

The EFF, who have been at the forefront pushing for free education, had its national chairperson Dali Mpofu also question Zuma’s timing when he tweeted: “ANC must answer three questions: 1. If Zuma did not intend free education to start in 2018 then why didn’t he wait and announce it in the State of the Nation address next month? 2. What was the rush? 3. Was he using such an important issue to influence the outcome of a stupid conference to favour the Zuptas?”

You simply cannot ignore the above. And what of the thousands of underprivileged students with the potential, who want to seize this offer but are turned away due to lack of space? USAf have warned of a mass intake due to universities already being at capacity, with only 208 000 students to be enrolled across the spectrum this year.

“If we simply have a huge increase in student intake that will have an extraordinary detrimental impact on the university system,” Bawa cautioned.

And what of funding from the state? National Treasury have said the proposal will be considered by its committee on the budget and the presidential fiscal committee.

“Any amendments to existing spending and tax proposals will be announced at the time of the 2018 budget,” it said.

It remains to be seen if the plans fall into place. Zuma has been resolute to go out with a bang, no matter the consequences.

yadhana-jadoo

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