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‘History in the making,’ says Nzimande as he promises two new universities and community colleges

‘History in the making,’ says Nzimande as he promises two new universities and community colleges
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Construction is set to start soon on the University of Science and Innovation, the Crime Detection University as well as nine Community College Learning Centres, according to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, who delivered his budget vote speech on Wednesday.

Two new universities are in the pipeline following the completion of feasibility studies for the establishment of the University of Science and Innovation in Ekurhuleni and the Crime Detection University in Hammanskraal. 

Delivering his department’s budget vote in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande said the department had also allocated R1-billion over three years to build nine Community College Learning Centres.

“The new universities should see actual construction in the coming year or two,” Nzimande said. “This is history in the making as this is the first time that we are investing in infrastructure for Community Colleges. 

“The construction of the first three Community College Centres will commence in the current 2023/24 financial year. The days of ABET and night schools are over.”

Students march on NSFAS

Nzimande delivered his speech as a group of University of Cape Town students marched to the offices of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to deliver a memorandum of demands.

There have been a number of demonstrations recently by students expressing their unhappiness with the student funding scheme.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) closed all its campuses on 12 May following violent protests over a funding condition that states that any student studying for fewer than 60 course credits is no longer eligible for lodging, living and transport allowances. This affects about 822 CPUT students.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape technikon closes campuses after violent protests and arson

Nzimande said the department was working towards finalising a new Comprehensive Student Funding Mode. 

“We aim through this also to introduce measures to support all the categories of students including those who are not supported by the current NSFAS funding policy.”

He said NSFAS was currently funding 1.1 million students with a budget allocation of R47.6-billion in the 2023 academic year. Of this amount, universities had been allocated R38.6-billion and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges R8.9-billion.

Learnership and internship opportunities

The department would also be updating the National List of Occupations in High Demand and piloting the Provincial List of Occupations in High Demand in collaboration with Mpumalanga and Western Cape. 

In addition, the department was working on the skills for the hydrogen economy project, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation.

“Through our Sector Education and Training Authorities combined, we opened up 52,701 learnership opportunities to the value of R1.6-billion in the last financial year,” Nzimande said.

The department had created 14,475 internship opportunities “to the value of R758-million”.

The department had also created 14,954 TVET placement opportunities to the value of R726-million and was committed to achieving a target of 20,000 work placements for TVET graduates.

‘A degree means nothing’

In her response to the speech, the DA’s Karabo Khakhau said that, under Nzimande’s watch, students had to prove their poverty and desperation every year to be considered for entry through the doors of higher education. 

“Minister, under your leadership, poor students wake up and go to bed hungry in dilapidated residences praying that the roof doesn’t fall on their heads while making friends with resident rats and cockroaches.

“Under your leadership, students spend every day anxious about when those financial and academic exclusion letters and eviction notices will land in their mail because NSFAS either has no record of their application (suddenly) or is not sure if it’ll still be able to fund them or whatever other ridiculous excuse they are able to think of.”

The EFF’s Naledi Chirwa said not only had Nzimande promised free education and failed to deliver it in its true essence for three decades, he had also failed to make the saying “education is the key to success” a reality.

“Thousands of our graduates, and hundreds of thousands more by the end of this year, must prepare themselves for a life of realising that a degree means nothing under the governance of the ANC.

“You have however put up a good fight with your obsession with wanting to be a media darling and competing with your equally just as useless deputy minister.”

Nzimande will also host the 10th BRICS Meeting of Education Ministers on 14 July 2023 in Mpumalanga. DM

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