Inside the Fees Commission Report

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Picture: Student’s march for free education. (Photo: SAhistory).

The city Press this past weekend revealed that the fees commotion report, which is alleged to be over 700 pages, concludes that free education for all cannot be achieved. According to the publication, the report suggests that there should be other models of funding that need to be looked at in order to adequately address free education in universities.  This report has been met with great disapproval and denunciation by some student leaders who are believed to have started strategizing a way forward while some have said they will wait for the official report to be released.

As indicated in a statement by the president’s spokesperson Bongani Ngulunga, the President cannot release the contents of the fees commission report as he is yet to consult ministers in his cabinet. There has been mounting pressure for the President to release the report by students as he has had the report for almost two months on his desk. The President believes that he still has to discuss how he will be implementing the recommendations with relevant people.  The President’s spokesperson said that “it’s quite a lengthy report, considering its recommendations and the relevant stakeholders involved in the report.” The Presidency says they are in the final stages of processing the much-anticipated report and hopes to conclude this before the end of the week.

Here are some things alleged to be in the report by City Press:

  • “The commission’s report makes proposals that include a cost-sharing model, which would entail increased government subsidies, as well as a fair and affordable fee structure regulated by the Council on Higher Education.”
  • “The scrapping of registration fees”
  • “The report stipulates that free education is not possible for South Africa and that different funding models should be adopted to ensure access for all deserving students.”
  • “They took into account the increased population over a number of years, the sluggish economy and they looked at who can afford and who can’t and at the end they said no it is not possible instead let’s looking at funding method.”
  • “In the report they speak of the fact that where we’re at in terms of the high school level of teaching is a burden to the university system because people come not entirely prepared, it’s either they drop out or they take longer to complete their degrees which is also a problem when it comes to repayment.”
  • “The commission’s report says universal free higher education will not be feasible in the foreseeable future.”

The President is accused, by some students, of leaking the report in order to soften reactions when the official one is released. Student representative Lukhanyo Vanqa of the Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania said that “We understand that the leaking of that report could only have emanated from the presidency and the reason for that leaking is to create a soft landing for when the president announces that there won’t be any free education in this upcoming week. He wants it not to be a shock when it comes out.”

The University of Pretoria’s SRC says while they are trying to avoid a shutdown, they are not happy with the report and are however not surprised. “The shutdowns in the previous two years, first of all shutdown to any opportunity we had to make sure management is held accountable to the memorandum we gave them which entailed lots of promises from 2015 won’t even be looked at.” The Chairperson of the EFF Student Command at the University of Johannesburg Zwelakhe Mahlangu said that “there will be an action that will be taking place to ensure that we put pressure on the state to give free education.” Wits University’s SRC has called for a national day of action and says they support universities that have already acted on the streets and shutdown their campuses.

Students from the University of Cape Town and Cape Peninsula University of Technology march to Parliament on Wednesday asking the President to release the report. The same protests took place at University of Free State. The South African Students Congress marched to Parliament and the Union Buildings on Tuesday to demand the report be released, its president Thabo Moloja requested that the President state publicly that there will not be free education.