NYDA welcomes Zuma's free higher education announcement

Sifiso Mtsweni says agency will viciously attack those who continue to undermine and question this move

Statement of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) Executive Chairperson Mr Sifiso Mtsweni at the occasion of an urgent press briefing on free education and matric examination results

7 January 2018

The NYDA wishes to take this opportunity to express new year greetings to all young people of the Republic of South Africa. We are hopeful that this year will be a year that will produce great things for young people of our country and as the NYDA we will be with all young people every step of the way to ensure that indeed the journey to greatness is realised.

We also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the class of 2017 for the phenomenal performance displayed in the recent matric results. We continue to be encouraged that the national pass rate is increasing and we continue to experience excellence in unusual corners of the country. We are encouraged that rural provinces such as the Free State continue to outperform all other provinces and particularly applaud the Fezile Dabi District for being the number one performing district in the country.

We wish to make special mention of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces for continuing to improve and experiencing growth while facing very perennial challenges of lack of proper infrastructure and in most cases, text books not arriving on time and with many schools still being mud schools. The performance on maths and science in these two provinces paint an encouraging picture that indeed, despite the many challenges that young people face, the potential they possess will always find its way into the spotlight of excellence.

We wish to encourage the successful matriculants to ensure that they apply and study at an institution of their choice. The NYDA in partnership with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is ready to assist, through our offices across the country, all matriculants who need access to funding and bursaries. The NYDA continues to administer the Solomon Mahlangu Scholarship fund which assists prospective students with access to higher education through a full bursary.

The NYDA has taken note and has welcomed the announcement by the President that this year, tertiary schooling will be provided for free for 90% of the country’s households. We also welcome that there will not be any fee increases for 95% of the country’s households which earn a combined income of less than R600 000 per annum. This is a victory for the students who have for many years led militant struggles demanding free education.

We believe that this struggle could not be delayed a day further, the announcement by the President is a historic one. We wish to caution some of our leaders and societal commentators from making reckless statements and undermining this great relief for the poor and working class of our country.

We have taken note that some sections of society (mostly affluent) have met this announcement with scepticism and others have gone to great lengths to label this announcement by Government as populist and political posturing. We condemn such attitudes with the contempt that it deserves, its quiet disappointing that even former Ministers who were charged with the responsibility of realising free education as per the manifesto of the ruling party have now come out openly that in their shoulders, this would not have happened! We are told that Government cannot afford free education for the poor and we beg to differ.

The basis of this strange allegation is largely premised on the Heher Commission report which we rejected outright as we believe that the commission was hijacked by the banks for their own commercial interests. The Commission report sought to create profit out of the misery of the poor in this country, it sought to replace NSFAS with banks thereby indebting our students, their parents and Government for life. We rejected the report and we wrote to the President to consider the following:

Revamp NSFAS from a loan to a full grant

Increase the threshold for the poor from R122 000 per annum to R350 000

Define the “missing middle” to be those who are from household who earn R600 000 per annum

Increase education funding to 1% of the total GDP, this is derived from the fact that there can be no developmental state which has education as its apex priority not allocating enough resources to education.

Wipe off historical debt

Scrap registration fees

Create a central application system for all students with the same qualifying criteria for access

Usage of Public Works buildings across the country as student residences and ensure that there are adequate beds for all students in the country.

This was our submission to the Heher Commission which was completely ignored in favour of commercial interests. We have also taken note of the malicious attacks on a young researcher which is branded an Advisor to the President on matters of free education. This media onslaught undermines the entire progressive youth movement of the country that has led struggles for many years for free education.

We as the NYDA located in the Presidency have continuously advised the President to reject the Heher Commission report and introduce free education in this country and we are happy that the President has listened to us. Anybody who continues to undermine this great achievement either hates this country or its youth, we wish to caution them that the youth of this country wont smile forever while an onslaught is launched on them. We have seen thousands of students in 2015 under the Fees Must Fall campaign and every year, those who continue to undermine our call for free education will be visited by the same scenes very soon.

We also wish to caution against populist and reckless calls by some opposition leaders that encourages students to barge into universities without due process. We call on all young people to visit our offices which are now full Wi-Fi access areas and use those facilities to make online application, the universities which allow for late applications must be visited to ensure that students who have not yet applied get an opportunity to do so. We also encourage Vice Chancellors to desist from playing politics and do what they are supposed to do, which is ensuring that Universities dispense quality education for our people.

The NYDA will be in all Universities across the country, starting in the Eastern Cape to ensure that registration goes smoothly and that those who qualify for free education are registered with no hesitation and that they experience the great work of our Government.

We will viciously attack those who continue to undermine and question the provision of free education in this country, we declare here for everybody to know.

The NYDA will continue to discharge its duties of youth development in the country. The Board of the NYDA has set itself ground-breaking targets that will ensure that it is visible in all corners of the country. For the next few days, the Board and the Executive of the NYDA will be crisis crossing the entire province of the Eastern Cape, especially rural areas to ensure that there is access to our products and services. We will embark on a back to school campaign that will ensure that we assist schools to be ready to accept learners. We will, through our NYS team, paint schools, fix broken infrastructure and ensure that the schools of the Eastern Cape are conducive to learning.

We will also visit poor families and give out school uniforms and shoes to destitute children as well as school bags to ensure that their learning this year becomes less of a burden due to their financial background. We will engage young people in the rural areas to pursue opportunities in entrepreneurship via our many programs that we have, we will also offer career guidance and we will also deploy our Jobs practitioners who will ensure that they assist them with drafting CV’s and submitting them to various areas of employment. We declare 2018 as a year of fighting youth unemployment!

We are encouraged that our call for the scrapping of experience as an entry requirement to get jobs received support from the ANC conference in December. We are also encouraged that our call for youth set-asides in Government procurement has also received support from the delegates of the ANC conference. We have called for 40% set-aside for youth owned businesses in all Government procurement, we continue to call for 40% quota for youth employment for all companies, we will lobby for this to become legislation.

This year we will also intensify our National Youth Service (NYS) program. Cabinet has already approved the NYS Framework, we will recruit 1 million young people into the National Youth Service Program this year, this will be led from the office of the Executive Chairperson. We will continue to open new offices, we are finalising an MOU with O.R Tambo District to ensure that there are NYDA Offices, we will also open offices in George, Ekurhuleni, Emalahleni and other areas before the end of this financial year.

We have launched our Mobile App, we have also launched our Mobile Offices which will reach far and wide to ensure that services of the NYDA are received by young people across the country.

We will, in the next few weeks, launch the National Youth Entrepreneurs and Skills Fund which will supplement the current NYDA budget which is not sufficient for the demands out there. We aim to raise R1 Billion through the funds from the private sector and Government, we will call on society as a whole to make an investment into youth development, this will assist us to help young people with great business ideas but require large resources and will also ensure that we roll out a skills revolution in the country.

This year we will also commemorate and celebrate the centenary of Isithwalandwe/Seaparankwe Nelson Mandela as well as Mama Albertina Sisulu. We will dedicate most of our programs in honour of these gallant revolutionaries of our struggle who cut their teeth in the youth movement.

We take this opportunity to wish the ruling party a happy 106th Anniversary, we also take this opportunity to congratulate Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on his election as ANC President. We have full confidence in the ability of the Deputy President to discharge his duties diligently as President of the ruling party and we are here to offer our full support as the youth of this country to ensure that we move the country forward.

We thank you.

Issued by the National Youth Development Agency, 7 January 2018