Written by Dr J.P. Nel, MD Mentornet
They are at it again – students threatening to riot if they don’t get their way.
Everybody (well almost…) understands that university studies are expensive. However, claiming that government should pay for the studies is a terrible misconception. Government does not have money to pay tuition fees – taxpayers are the ones who pay. If tuition fees are increased government will simply increase taxes. If students are allowed to study for free – taxpayers will pay, not government. Students’ parents will pay more taxes and so will every other taxpayer. The end-result will be that tuition fees are spread more evenly in the sense that people who do not have children at university will now sponsor those who do. Those who can, for example most businesses, will simply increase the prices of the products or services that they sell. In the end the impact on the economy will be devastating. Ultimately it will be the most vulnerable and poor who will suffer the most because they cannot recuperate the added financial burden.
There are indications that the Minister of Higher Education and Training is already siphoning money from the National Skills Fund to universities. No doubt he will increasingly do so. The National Skills Fund is supposed to be used to pay for education and training in scarce and critical skills needs, i.e. occupational learning. After all, it is the industry that pays skills levies and it is they who should benefit from the levies. In the process private leaning institutions will suffer the most because few public learning institutions are willing and able to offer workplace related learning. More importantly, workplace related learning, which the country needs the most, might collapse.
In closing, South Africa needs people who are trained to do specific jobs. We cannot afford to spend all the available money on academic education, especially not in fields that add little value to the workplace. Of course it would have been ideal if we could also cater for higher order knowledge and skills, but at the moment we need to focus on scarce and critical skills needs, which most university education is not.