The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, told the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture yesterday that he was awaiting a report from Stellenbosch University about the alleged racist incident that occurred at one of the university’s residencies recently.

Dr Nzimande led a high-powered departmental delegation that included the Director-General, Dr Nkosinathi Sishi, and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to present to the committee the department’s annual performance plans and budgets for the 2022/23 financial year.

Dr Nzimande called the incident disgusting, but said he will await the report before he formulates an opinion on whether the university is doing enough towards transforming the institution. The Chairperson of the select committee, Mr Elleck Nchabeleng, said the committee condemns the incident.

Dr Blade Nzimande presented the budget saying: “In the current environment where we need to ensure economic recovery three things are important for the department. It is continuing to manage Covid-19, drive economic reconstruction and recovery, and support the job creation and other relief measures that government is undertaking in the wake of the pandemic.”

To this end, Dr Nzimande said the department is finalising its skills strategy and Dr Sishi will expedite the implementation plan. The department is also putting into action the commitment made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of the Nation Address that 10 000 technical and vocational education and training (TVET) learners will be placed in jobs. “Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) have already committed to place 5 000 learners already in the workplace. Each Seta committed to place 500, but this may even be around 15 000, higher than what the President had promised,” he said.

Dr Nzimande highlighted the challenges facing the TVET sector and said many students sat at home because they have done only theory, and not practical work experience. “This 10 000 is an important escalation of this exercise, and we hoping to expand on it.” The department is looking to sign performance agreements with TVET college principals to push for workplace placements.

Referring to the incident at Stellenbosch University, Dr Sishi said a lot of work is being done to deal with the structural issues that permit racist incidents to occur. “We condemn the incident and recognised the effort of the minister in making to ensure that there is no semblance of racism at universities.”

Nonetheless, Dr Sishi assured the committee that the post-school education sector in South Africa is sound and stable, and the department will continue to ensure that it contributes to South Africa’s transformation.

The committee also received a briefing from NSFAS on its annual performance plan.

Sibongile Maputi
19 May 2022