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Statement on Fees Commission Report November 2017

Statement on release of Fees Commission Report

For immediate release

Media Office                                                                                                  14 November 2017

 

Students for Law and Social Justice (SLSJ), as a student organisation committed to the realisation of true social justice in all spheres, especially education; welcomes the continued passion of students on all campuses around the country in ensuring the gates of learning are truly opened to all. We further note that the delay in the release of this report was unwarranted.

We welcome the finding of the Commission of Inquiry on Higher Education and Training report that the status quo could not continue any longer. The continued rise in student fees continuously shifted onto the backs of students laid the foundation of the #FeesMustFall movement and the continued unrest on campuses.

Students for Law and Social Justice notes the interpretation employed by the Commission, based on our submission, of section 29 of the Constitution regarding the lack of the state’s obligation to provide fee free higher education rather requiring fee free higher education to be made “progressively available and accessible”. However, we once again reiterate that in reading section 29 (1)(b) it is not appropriate to read the availability of resources as a justification, in and of itself, that can be relied upon by the state for non-fulfilment of free higher education rather it is a component in assessing the reasonableness of the measures taken. In terms of the suggested Income Contingent Loan system recommended by the Commission; although SLSJ did present such a system as an alternative to the sliding scale model proposed in our submissions, it was alongside other measures that would be applied. The belief that a loan system alone would fix the structural inequalities so prevalent in the access to higher education is quite frankly irrational. By inadequately intervening at the quantum of University fees and saddling graduates, of whom many families depend upon to uplift from poverty, with debt once again the system would be contributing to the widening inequality so prevalent in our society

It is insufficient to believe that a one-size-fits-all solution of Income Contingent Loans would have the adequate effect to fix the broken and regressive system of higher education. We therefore call upon the Department of Higher Education and the Presidency to take the further steps (as we submitted) such as determining the amount of subsidisation required for each student based on a holistic look at the personal circumstances rather than being purely based on income, introduce fee free higher education to the poorest students and finally revise admissions policies as a space to effect redress of past and present injustices.

Students for Law and Social Justice welcomes this first step but realises this is by no means enough and therefore shall continue to struggle and endeavor for the realisation of the ideal of universal higher education.

Olwethu Mhaga

National Executive Committee Secretary

Email:  slsj.nec@gmail.com                  Call:078 9223146