The 54th national conference of the ANC did not discuss how exactly the free education plan announced by President Jacob Zuma last Saturday would be implemented.
Zuma’s announcement in a statement last Saturday indicated that beginning next year, students from poor and working class households would receive free higher education. He failed however to indicate how this would be funded.
In a briefing on the resolutions taken by the ANC conference — chairperson of the sub-committee on education, health and science and technology — Naledi Pandor, said the implementation of the announcement made by Zuma was not discussed.
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba assured conference that it would be dealt with in the budget speech in February.
“There was a very strong call that government must act speedily to implement free higher education for young people from poor and working class backgrounds, and also to provide support for families in the middle strata who are unable to meet the full costs of higher education,” said Pandor, adding that, in support of Zuma’s announcement, conference said government must implement free fee higher education next year.
“We will await announcement as what to be done and if there is waste [of funds in government] we must grab that money towards supporting young people,” she added.
Pandor said a resolution was taken that the new national executive committee — which at the time of the briefing was yet to be announced — should hold “an urgent stakeholder meeting” on higher education finance matters.
A resolution however was taken to improve infrastructure in the basic education system — especially in rural schools — by providing laboratories and libraries.
A further resolution was also adopted for the department of basic education to improve literacy in schools especially in foundation phase. This follows the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study , which was released last month, found that 78% of Grade 4 pupils cannot read for meaning and that the same pupils scored last in reading of 50 countries.
The conference also resolved that the department of higher education and training must work closely with universities and colleges to ensure that they produce graduates that are employable.
“So conference felt we need to look at how we incorporate improved understanding and teaching of work related skills as preparation either for employment or entrepreneurship. There was a very strong call on a need to re-look at the curriculum structure and the kind of skills that graduates are requering in our universities and college system,” said Pandor.