Elodi Troskie

President Jacob Zuma has announced that government will provide free higher education for poor and working class students by 2018, referring to students from South African households with a combined annual income of up to R350 000.

This subsidy will affect approximately 90% of South African households and will form part of a five year programme, starting with first year students in 2018.

According to Zuma, students categorised as poor and working class will be funded through government grants, not loans. Grants will cover full cost of tuition, study materials, meals, accommodation and transport.

This statement was released on the day the ANC’s 54th elective conference is starting, where a new leader of the party will be elected.

Zuma’s announcement differs from the recommendations of the Heher Commission into the Feasibility of Fee-Free Higher Education which was released in November 2017, stating that state is unable to provide free education to all students.

Subsidies to universities will be increased from 0.68 percent to 1 percent of the GDP over the next five years. There will also be no fee increases for remaining students from South African households with a combined annual income of up to R600 000 for 2018.

According to Zuma, the Minister of Higher Education will deal with NSFAS debt. He further said that the construction of new student accommodation will receive urgent attention.