by Danica Tobin

HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Interview with the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training - Buti Manamela

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1. This is your first term serving as Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, what does this role entail?

The role of the Deputy Minister, working with the Minister, is to provide leadership and guidance to the Department as it implements the post school education and training system. The political principals must also provide oversight to the various entities that report to the DHET and account to Parliament on progress.

2. What makes an ideal leader in today’s global world?

A leader in today’s global world must provide ethical and progressive leadership to address the global challenges of poverty, inequality and the increasing unemployment of the world’s youth. This requires leadership to confront social injustices for a better present and future.

People are hungry for leadership however most times people do not recognise the leaders in themselves. A leader is any person who effects change and is willing to work for the betterment of all humanity. A leader is also somebody who promotes equality for all.

3. What are the challenges you had to face when you entered the education sector?

The effective functioning of our post school education and training system is important for our country’s growth and development. The announcement of fee-free higher education and training for the poor and working class is governments attempt to providing quality post school education and training opportunities, especially to our youth. The implementation of this decision involves many stakeholders in this sector including NSFAS, universities, student formations, TVET colleges and education professionals. The flexibility shown by the stakeholders to implement the fee-free higher education and training policy decision has been encouraging and has positively contributed towards the challenge of implementing this decision in a short space of time. I see this as an opportunity to be part of this historical development in our country.

4. What was your secret to overcoming (surviving) those challenges?

Being flexible and working positively with all stakeholders to reaffirm governments approach to higher education and training and steadily implementing its decisions.

5. Currently South Africa’s education systems are under immense pressure to improve- what are the current problems and how can it be fixed?

We are always on the path to improvement. We ought to be able to make education accessible for the masses of our people who for many years were excluded to be educated which resulted in the continuation of the cycle of poverty.

With dedication and collaboration from all sectors of society, government, business, civil society. We will be able to achieve the National Development Plans vision of a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path.

6. What roles do you foresee for private higher tertiary education?

I think the private sector has an important role to play. We encourage this sector in the education system because private institutions widen access to higher education.

What is important is that the colleges are registered with the department and they offer accredited courses within the legal framework.

7. You have stated that the treasury will find the money needed for free tertiary education. Will this truly be possible?

The Minister of Finance has given 57 Billion Rands to fund the higher education sector. I would say we are off to a good start in the implementation of fee free higher education.

8. What is the free Higher Education plan?

The department plans to pay for the studies of 1.16 million university students and 780 000 college students over the next three years. About 82 000 of 208 first year students registered at universities qualified for NSFAS which will be a bursary as of 2018.

Additionally, we have set aside R4.6 billion worth of funding for first-year university students. In the coming year, R21 billion will be spent on students, with a R3 billion increase in 2020. Those are some of the plans that the department has put in place to implement fee free higher education.

9. Do you attribute tertiary fees as the main reason for the exclusion of a large percentage of youth studying and consequently leading to unemployment?

There are other factors of course, however with the criteria of students whose parents have a combined income of 350 000 as a qualifier, this effectively means that 90% of households in South Africa quality for fee free higher education. This means that the majority of South Africans now have access to higher education.

10. What do you believe is a solution to the crucial issue of youth unemployment?

Government’s decision on fee-free higher education certainly expands the education and skills possibilities for young people. It is contributing towards the solution to youth unemployment. Good career guidance, steering youth to take up careers in the trades, promoting artisan skills are all part of the solution to youth unemployment from an education and training perspective.

Danica Tobin

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