Black students held back by varsity fees

Higher education: Percentage of blacks who graduate will continue to fall if nothing is done

27 October 2017 - 07:01 By Bafana Nzimande
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said the proportion of black graduates was around 15% in 1975 but has now declined to 5%.
Statistician-general Pali Lehohla said the proportion of black graduates was around 15% in 1975 but has now declined to 5%.
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

The higher education system is constipated and, if left untreated, the number of black students who complete their studies will continue to drop.

This is the opinion of statistician-general Pali Lehohla, who recently presented a report on the finances of higher education in 2016. It shows that the lack of student funding is an obstacle, especially for black students.

According to Stats SA, since 1994 universities have had an increase in the intake of black students but the number who complete their studies has dropped because of financial difficulties.

Lehohla said the proportion of black graduates was around 15% in 1975 but has now declined to 5%.

He said that, apart from addressing funding for higher education, the country's basic education system needed a revamp.

"The higher education system is clogged up. Without a doubt, the number of blacks going to universities has increased post-1994 but the progression ratio is failing the system. There are less resources and this forces many black students to drop out," said Lehohla.

According to Stats SA, 975837 students were enrolled at universities last year - about 16% of them first-years.

The number of blacks going into the universities was less during the aparthied era compared to post 1994 but back then the majority of black students received financial backing and, therefore, many completed their studies, Lehohla said.

"We might have different attitudes to the #FeesMustFall campaign, but the fact of the matter is that most black people can't afford higher-education fees.

"As a country we need to put our heads together and come up with ideas on how we can fix this structural problem," the statistician-general said.

Campus protests have started in Cape Town and the Free State as students demand that President Jacob Zuma release the Fees Commission report.

Zuma received the final report on the feasibility of free higher education in August but has not released it.

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