Ballim said the announcement was a move in the right direction.
THE ANNOUNCEMENT of free education for 90% of South African households was welcomed by many over the weekend, including the Vice-Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley.
Professor Yunus Ballim said the announcement will bring great relief to students in the Northern Cape who might not have been able to afford the cost of higher education in the past.
Ballim said the announcement was a move in the right direction. “This is very positive news as we have got so many families in the Province who are unable to afford higher education for their children.
“There are so many students who qualify to study at TVET colleges, but due to the financial constraints are forced to stay at home after they have completed their schooling. This plan will not only enable students to further and complete their studies, but will assist in the fight against unemployment.
According to Ballim it also means that the NSFAS loan will now be considered a grant. That means students will not have to be pay it back.
He said that the plan does not, however, mean that the universities will drop its level of quality education. “The academic entry processes will still be followed at universities to ensure that only those eligible are granted access to study. It does not mean that everyone will now have entry into universities or that academic processes will be disregarded.
“It does not matter whether you are rich or poor, students still need to meet the requirements set out by the institutions. This plan means that academically deserving students will now have free access to higher education.
“What should not happen is that students will be provided with bad education because they are merely from poor households. South Africans must ensure that universities provide quality education to all. We must ensure, as universities, that we do not in return say that the poor get access to poor education just because they do not pay for it,” said Ballim.
He added that outstanding questions on the matter will be addressed during a meeting with the Higher Education Department this week.
“We will be engaging with higher education to discuss how the plan will work. The question of what is going to happen to historical debt of students, who are currently in the system, will also be addressed,” he said.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement before the start of the ANC’s 54th Elective conference in Johannesburg this weekend.
Students enrolled at higher education institutions whose families are earning less than R600 000 per annum will have a no fees increment for 2018.
Zuma extended fully subsidised free university education for students from families earning below R350 000 per annum who are starting their first year of study next year.
All NSFAS loans allocated to current students will be converted from loans to 100% grants.