During the Department of Higher Education and Training’s budget vote debate, committee member Ms Dibolelo Mahlatsi applauded the department’s support of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, was presenting the department’s budget vote virtually in the National Assembly (NA). He reported that the department had a budget of R103.1 billion, which is an average annual increase of seven per cent.

 The department plans to distribute the funds to six programmes: administration, planning, policy and strategy; university education; technical and vocational education and training; skills development; and community education and training.

The committee also called for women to hold more leadership positions in the sector and highlighted women’s success in assuming more roles in academia, particularly young black academics joining university staff. Committee members called for the budget vote to be geared towards generating an academic programme that focusses on producing new academics, black women in particular.

The committee welcomed the department’s budget, but highlighted that issues around student accommodation always lead to disruptions at the beginning of the academic year at many institutions of higher learning. The department assured the committee that R2.9 billion has been allocated for student accommodation in this financial year and the department plans to seek private sector partnerships to alleviate accommodation problems in the sector.

The committee urged the government to work with the private sector to regulate the cost of student accommodation to avoid exploitative increases by private rental agencies. The committee also expressed its unhappiness over quantity and quality imbalances between urban and rural student accommodation.

The committee welcomed the news that R7.584 billion will go towards student housing to deliver 16 858 beds across 11 universities. Dr Nzimande mentioned that these funds are available under the department’s investment in infrastructure projects across the 26 universities during the 2022/23 financial year.

The committee also welcomed the increase in TVET college student funding through National Student Financial Aid Scheme bursaries from 261 404 in 2020/21 to 329 554 in 2022/23. The committee also noted the department’s commitment to place 10 000 unemployed former TVET students in work places.

Ms Nomsa Marchesi of the Democratic Alliance said TVET qualifications are unappealing and grossly underfunded, with curriculums that do not address South Africa’s economic needs. She continued to say that capacity-building is needed to support TVET lecturers and management. The National Freedom Party (NFP) supported the department’s budget vote, but said a lot more still needs to be done at the school education level. The NFP believes high school students are ill-prepared for higher learning, as 60 per cent drop out in their first year of tertiary education.

Dr Nzimande responded to say the department has increased the number of students enrolled in TVET colleges from 452 277 in 2020/21 to 580 849 in 2022/23 and set aside about R10 million for the expansion and relocation of the University of Zululand teacher training faculty to the former Zululand Parliamentary Precinct at Ulundi.

The committee also welcomed workplace-based learning programmes and the 20 500 artisans projected to pass trade tests in the 2022/23 financial year. The committee further called for economic transformation to address alarming youth unemployment through improving skills development programmes.

Jabulani Majozi
16 May 2022