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Free education must be taken seriously: Kalla

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Less than 10% of South African’s youth are afforded the opportunity to complete a three-year degree at a tertiary institution, in part to the fact that tuition fees are beyond their financial means and because many do not meet the requirements for student funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), according to former Wits SRC-president and #FeesMustFall campaigner, Shaeera Kalla.

Her comments come after government committed an additional R4.5bn from the fiscus towards meeting a funding shortfall within NSFAS. Due to the shortfall many returning students, including those at Wits University were unable to re-enter the system in 2015, this despite meeting the NSFAS and university requirements.

Speaking on Monday, Kalla said that whilst government’s move to increase its higher education sector budget for 2016/2017 would come as a relief to students, it was still not taking into account the greater implications of student debt.

“They are not thinking about what the greater demands are of students, which is a plan for the romanticised vision which has become the call for free education. What we want to see is a shift from it being just a romanticised vision towards it being a realistic and implementable goal by the state,” she stated.

Kalla suspected if the central demand of free education was not taken seriously it would likely push students back to the streets to protest in 2016; a form of political protest she stressed was imperative in order to spur government to take action.

“What young people have managed to do very successfully is shake the core of an unjust system. Now we have to really see if our demands are going to be taken seriously. If not, the same amount of pressure is going to erupt in the country,” she suggested.

Kalla stressed the issue was one the country’s youth would not easily let go of.

“There is going to be no retreat and no surrender on these issues anytime soon,” she added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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