Fee-free university commission a waste of time‚ says Frank Chikane

15 November 2017 - 11:58 By Bongani Mthethwa
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The Rev Frank Chikane.
The Rev Frank Chikane.
Image: Lebohang Mashiloane

ANC stalwart Frank Chikane has called the Heher Commission report on higher education a waste of time‚ saying the country knew what was required.

“There was no need for a commission because we knew what we wanted. The commission should have been about how you make it happen. In budget terms‚ in monetary terms. Not whether or not‚” he said.

Chikane‚ whose son Kgosi was at the forefront of the Fees Must Fall protests at the University of Cape Town‚ said there was no debate on whether students must study further – but on whether there could be free education for all.

“All of us would want our children to go to school and that’s not a debate. And can we make it free education for everybody? We want to‚ if we can. But let’s do the number crunch‚ and I think that’s where the issue is. It’s not a level of whether or not. It’s more about whether you can do it‚” he said.

Chikane‚ a former director-general in Thabo Mbeki’s government‚ was addressing the media after a luncheon organised by the KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches in Durban on Tuesday.

President Jacob Zuma released the long-awaited Heher report on Monday. It fell far short of students’ demands for free universal education. However‚ it did recommend scrapping registration fees and tuition costs at certain institutions.

Chikane said the issue was about looking at the numbers and seeing if free education could be done.

“Some people will have a lot of debates. By the way‚ I have Fees Must Fall in my house. So I don’t have to go and get it from another person. Yesterday I discussed it with Kgosi and the issue is: let’s look at the numbers and say can we do it. Then people will talk about prioritisation of budget.”

He said Kgosi had come to him and said: “Dad‚ you paid for me. I will finish without debt. The poor child from Orange Farm will have debt when she finishes her degree‚ so this NSFAS is against the poor.”

“I never thought of it but when he tells me I realise that‚ actually‚ it’s true. The privileged will leave the university without debt. The poor will leave the university with debt.”

Chikane said it was important for the country to find a solution that will equalise the education system to make sure that the poor are not burdened because of their economic status.

“So‚ a child in South Africa should not fail to go to school because the parents are poor. We must make sure that a child goes to school. So we must equalise the system so that those who were impoverished by apartheid do not continue paying for their oppression.”

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