We expose the imperialist govt policy in tertiary education

The ANC election manifesto promises that they are moving towards free tertiary level  education. We show not only that this is a lie but that cuts are being implemented that attack current gains and are in line with policies of imperialist International Monetary Bank (IMF) to keep SA as a cheap labour economy, cutting public education expenditure, so that more funds can be diverted into the pockets of the big capitalists.

What caused the funding crisis that led to the mass protests at universities this year?

Firstly, the honourable Minister Nzimande saw fit to only increase the block funding for teaching grants by 4.2% for 2013/14, by 4.7% for 2014/15 and  by 3.4% for 2015/16. Over the 3 year period the teaching grants go up from R12.1 bn to R13.1 bn. This means that university staff are facing wage cuts (below inflation ‘increases’) from this year and for the 2 years following. In order to cope with rising costs therefore, universities have been forced to increase fees by 8-9%. Thus the bigger burden of higher fees being forced on the backs of working class parents, has come directly from govt policy and directly from SACP Minister Nzimande.

Secondly, the govt aim of increasing the number of FET students from 400 000 in 2011 to 1 million in 2014 and to 4 million by 2030 means that more and more of the NSFAS funds are being diverted to FET colleges away from universities. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul. Thus even though NSFAS funding for  2012/13, of R3.3bn, increased by 9.3% to 2013/14, ie to R3.7 bn, it should have increased much more to accommodate the 500 000+ more FET students in 2014. Further, there are 2 new universities being brought into the education system this year so the increase in NSFAS and teaching funds should have been much more. Thus the NSFAS funding was actually cut and after the mass protests at universities, the honourable SACP Minister was forced to increase the funding by R1bn. The govt was forced to back down as this is an election year and they had to try to end protests among students as the control over the youth are a major factor for the ruling party in its bid to control the masses.

The govt plans more cuts at universities

Not only are funding cuts plans for staff at universities for the next 2 years but the NSFAS funding is also reduced, namely the ‘increase’ is only 6% for 2014/15 (to R3.9 bn)  and 4.6% for 2015/16 (to R4 bn).  To give an idea, to fund an extra 200 000 FET students  from 2014 to 2015 at a minimum cost of R10 000 per student, would cost R2 bn, yet the increase is only R400 million- this R400 million increase is not only for FET but for universities also. This R400 million increase does not even keep pace with real inflation.  Thus the claim that the govt is moving towards free education at tertiary level is a big lie. In the next 2 years, not only will fees have to go up, putting greater pressure on the shoulders of the working class parents, but less university students will be funded.

Thus the slight ‘increase’ in funding for NSFAS from 2014 to 2015 will mean that more funds are diverted from universities towards the FET Colleges. This is part of the deindustrialization process that big capital has forced on the already small manufacturing sector in the country and reflects the global crisis of capitalism in deep terminal decline and stagnation. There is a move away from more scientists and engineers towards hairdressers and tour guides as spelt out in the NDP.  Thus in 2015 more exclusions from universities will take place. The stagnation of science is also reflected in the govt cuts to the Mathematics Institute (‘increases’ for 2013/14 of only 4.4%, for 2014/15 only 4.5% and for 2015/16 only 4.2%- all way below inflation).

FET Colleges and the downscaling of universities- a ticking time-bomb

By 2011 there were 50 public FET colleges with 400 000 students; there were 403 private FET Colleges with 134 000 students; yet only 277 of the 403 private colleges submitted data on their enrolment and pass rates. Only 18 of the 50 public FET Colleges actually know what happens to their students when they leave. Thus, even with the increase in FET college students, no one knows if these students are actually getting work. In fact, considering that the economy is stagnating, it would be likely that many of them are also unemployed.

In 1996, only 1 in 10 university students received NSFAS funding; by 2012 this had only risen to 2 in every 10 university students receiving NSFAS funding (only 20% , about 195 000, of the 950 000 university students receive NSFAS funding). But with the shift of funds to FET colleges, this figure is likely to either stagnate or drop. Thus with the current govt policy not only will higher education become even more out of reach of the working class parent, but more and more students will be driven to take out loans to fund higher education. Thus we face a situation like the USA where the debt that students take on for education may even become higher than housing debt and may, as in the case of the USA, take a lifetime to pay off. The private banks are the main beneficiaries of the SACP Minister’s Education policy. The planned 2 years of community service after qualifying, has nothing to do with social responsibility, but everything to do with providing cheap labour for 2 years, for monopoly capital.  

Thus, besides the lowering of skills of the student/youth pool, the only net effect of the change towards FET colleges, away from universities, is that the govt is able, with less money, to be able to keep more of the youth off the streets, for a longer period. In other words, the drive towards FET colleges has nothing to do with job creation but more to act as a tool of control of the masses, a tool of imperialism to postpone the revolt against the capitalist system that is currently brewing. Such is the imperialist policy of SACP Minister Nzimande.

The way forward

Thus it is important for youth, student and workers  organizations and unions in the education sector to break with the ANC and SACP. It is important to link up with struggles of the community and workers against the state and big capital- ultimately we are fighting the same fight.

·         Forward to quality, liberatory free education up to the highest level

·         Seize the assets of the mining corporates for the theft they have committed through transfer pricing and tax evasion for the past 50 years- here are the funds for education, health, housing and jobs for all

·         Expropriate the mines and banks, without compensation to the capitalists, place these under workers control

·         Kick out the current Nehawu and Cosatu leadership- they are the agents of the imperialist plans within the workers’ movement

·         Break the alliance with the capitalist and pro-imperialist ANC and SACP

·         Forward to a revolutionary working class party

WIVP email workersinternational@gmail.com



1.       Ministerial statement on University funding 2014/15 and 2015/16 November 2013

2.       ANC 2014 Election Manifesto

3.       Statistics on post-school education and training in South Africa: 2011 (Dept of Higher Education and Training)

4.       The National Development Plan

5.       FET Colleges Fail to meet great expectations (Michael Cosser) published on Sangonet

6.       The Death agony of Capitalism and the tasks of the Fourth International (also known as The Transitional Programme for Socialist Revolution) by Leon Trotsky (1938)