Tertiary fees time bomb ticks

19 October 2016 | Opinion

The time is now to sit down and widely debate the root causes of the tertiary education fee problem.

Since South African students took to the streets to demonstrate against university fees, there have been mixed feelings as far as the students’ action is concern.

The issue appears to have had a ripple effect with Namibian students also joining the fray, which led to protests at the University of Namibia and a varsity lockdown at the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

The situation in South Africa is one that is intricate, but not far removed from the daily struggles of fellow students back home. When raising tuition fees, the South African universities have been accused of not taking into account affordability to students, while their increases have also been blasted for being unreasonable and not related to inflation-linked adjustments.

This standoff has led to clashes and with neither government nor university bosses committing to a proper dialogue with the students. It is, however, a shame that things have spiralled out of control, with most protests turning violent, while instances of looting have also been reported. We are not saying that tuition fees should be scrapped, because this will lead to the collapse of higher education, which would have dire consequences for our country.

Universities need to survive too. What must happen now is a substantive engagement with all stakeholders to ensure that a long-term solution to the funding crisis is found, especially where it affects students from poor backgrounds.

Our leaders are often the first to complain that no equality has been achieved 26 years after independence, yet there is a deafening silence in terms of how government intends to use higher education as a yardstick to achieving equality.

We acknowledge that government through NSFAF is battling to come up with serious reforms owing to the millions that went missing through defaults, missing files and payment disputes.

However, this should not prevent the authorities to come up with a policy that puts great emphasis on effective governance and equity in the higher education sector.

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