#FeesCommission: Too Little, Too Late?

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We were all sitting on the edge of our seats, constantly refreshing the Presidency website, just waiting for them to release the Fees Commission report. And, finally, there it was. The Fees Commission report, months in the making.

And it was a bit of a let down.

In his statement releasing the report, President Jacob Zuma said:

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education Funding led by the Minister in the Presidency Mr Jeff Radebe, and the Presidential Fiscal Committee whose lead Minister is the Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba, are processing the report. I will make a pronouncement on the Report once the Ministers have concluded their work. I have decided to release the Report prior to the conclusion of our work in processing it so that the public can have an opportunity to study the report while we continue with the processing thereof.

The President, to my mind, has been dragging his feet with regards to the issue of free higher education. Either that, or he has some grand plan that he is slowly preparing to implement. Honestly, it could go either way.

The release of the Fees Commission Report now, as tensions continue to mount at campuses across the country, strikes me as irresponsible. To release the report months after its completion, yet before the Inter-Ministerial Committee has had a chance to finish its own work, is either a misstep by our President or, indeed, a carefully calculated act.

And I don’t know which, to be honest.

The President has been dragging his feet

The Fees Commission Report makes it clear that there is no money for fee-free higher education for all in South Africa. Hardly a shocking statement, to my mind. Fee-free higher education for all was never really a viable option, at least not all at once.

ASIDE: Again, this isn’t the space for me to pontificate on HOW I WOULD HAVE DONE IT or any such malarkey. But my opinions will be informing my analysis of the report and so it would be foolish of me to exclude them entirely.

While fee-free higher education for all is, according to the Report, not on the table, the Report does an admirable job of examining the issue and proposing ways forward. The Commission accepts that free higher education for all simply isn’t viable and instead details alternatives.

Fee-free higher education: never a viable option

The recommendations made by the Report are many and varied, though most are not particularly groundbreaking (don’t worry, I’ll get to the meaty part of my criticisms in a bit). But first we need to examine the recommendations.

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