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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Treasury and the higher education department contradict each other on free education

Ido Lekota

With Government officials contradicting each other about how free education will be funded, there is rising uncertainty over whether thousands of youth from poor and working-class households will have access to free tertiary education in 2018.

On Tuesday Mkhize told Inside Education that plans were in place for the free tertiary education plan to be implemented effectively. 

At a media briefing on Thursday however, Mkhize failed to tell the public how much was budgeted for the plan to be implemented and where the money would come from.

Instead, she told journalists that the budgeting for the extension of free education to poor and working-class students started in 2015 – following the fees must fall protests that ravaged the university sector. She went on to say that the funding of the 5-year free tertiary education implementation plan was therefore with the approved budget vote.

Mkhize was contradicted by Mayihlome Tshwete, the Finance ministry spokesperson, who also on Thursday, told 702 that Treasury was still looking for money to fund free tertiary education.

Asked if there was money readily available to fund all poor students expected to register, Tshwete confirmed that there were no billions set aside.

“We are under pressure but will find a way to do it in a fiscally sustainable and responsible manner”, said Tshwete.

Meanwhile, the EFF has thrown the uncertainty around the plan in President Zuma’s lap.

“If government officials are creating uncertainty around his announced plan – then Zuma must create the needed certainty”, said EFF Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told Inside Education.

DA Shadow Minister for Education Belinda Bozzoli accused the government of falsely raising the hopes of poor students.

“This is really disappointing to the thousands of students supposed to be covered by the plan”, she said.

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