Implement free quality decolonized education today! – NUMSA

Union says fees report finding that free education not viable rubbish, SA one of richest countries on Earth

NUMSA urges President Jacob Zuma to implement free quality decolonized education today!

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) urges President Jacob Zuma to ignore the findings of the Herher Commission into the Feasibility of Free Higher Education and Training in South Africa, and to implement free quality decolonized education today. The commission was chaired by Justice Jonathon Arthur Herher and sat for 22 months investigating the viability of free education.

One of the key findings of the commission was that it found that free education was not viable. This is rubbish. Instead, it recommended that the banks replace the state funding mechanism, NFSAS, with the called Income Contingency Loan (ICL). The commission recommended that commercial banks issue government-guaranteed loans to the students that are payable by the person once they graduate and upon attainment of a specific income threshold.

NUMSA rejects, with the contempt it deserves, the findings of the Herher Commission. The insistence on loans as a means of accessing education is nothing more than slavery through indebtedness. It is a way to sustain the racial inequalities between the rich white and emerging black middle class children, and the poor African children. Upon graduating, rich white and black children will have no loans to service while children of poor working class parents who are already struggling under the burden of unemployment and extremely low wages, while supporting 3 to 5 family members, will graduate from university with the additional burden of a loan which they must pay off. This is racist and classist sadism at its best!

South Africa hosts some of the richest capitalists in the world. It is one of the richest countries on Earth. It can very well afford to fund universal, decolonized and quality education from birth to death, for its people.

We reject, absolutely, the idea that government should guarantee loans for the benefit of white monopoly capitalist institutions like the banks. NUMSA has consistently said that if the ANC was genuine about radical economic transformation it would nationalize the commanding heights of the economy, including the banks, the mines and the land. Doing this would drastically expand the capacity of the fiscus to adequately respond to the needs of the working class majority. It would mean that the state would have enough resources to ensure universal access to quality housing, healthcare and decolonized education. The ANC abandoned the basic blueprint that united the majority of South Africans and the world in the struggle for freedom in this country, the Freedom Charter; it opted for neo-liberal capitalist economic policies instead. It gave up the revolution in order to play security guard for white wealth.

NUMSA also rejects the Herher Commission’s recommendation that students from TVET colleges should receive fully subsidized free education in the form of grants that cover their full cost of study, whilst students from public and private university institutions receive loans. Doing this will ensure that TVET colleges remain under resourced, under-funded and overcrowded, as has always been the case. They remain the dumping ground for the children of the black and African working class, who are exposed to an inferior education, in order to prepare them for an inferior standard of living.

What is to be done?

At the 10th NUMSA National Congress in December 2016 we resolved to take up the campaign for #FeesMustFall and to align the struggle of the workers with that of the students. Therefore, when the students call for a National Shutdown early next year in order to demand free education, we will mobilize the working class to join them, as this is in fact our struggle: it is one of the most urgent and important struggles of the working class in South Africa today. The students are fighting on behalf of their parents. They are fed up with seeing their parents suffering for the crumbs which Capitalism deems a living wage.

During Apartheid, race was used as a weapon to block the majority of the African working class from accessing education. Today under the so-called democratic dispensation it is fees which are used as a weapon to exclude the majority of people.

We are determined to finish the work of the liberation movement. As NUMSA we fully support the students’ call for a national shutdown. We will mobilize workers to join in this just struggle. United together with the students, no government can defeat us.

Our demand is very simple, and very affordable by the South African government: TVET and university education for the working class and working class students must be free – it must be fully funded by the government. No fake TEVT subsidies and no loans – full funding by the government for free education!

We are inspired by comrade Fidel Castro who once said:

No thieves, no traitors, no interventionists! This time, the revolution is for real!”

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 16 November 2017