The inequality that exists in South Africa makes one's heart bleed. The divide that prevails between the rich and the poor leaves a lot to be desired. It is not only a problem prevalent in South Africa alone, but in most African countries and other similar parts of the world.
In seeking a redress to this affliction, Jacob Zuma, the outgoing president of South Africa, said that free education for tertiary studies would be extended to poor students. Zuma said that commencing from 2018, South African children of the unemployed‚ social grant recipients‚ parents earning below minimum wage‚ domestic workers‚ farm workers‚ mine workers and entry level civil servants who are legible will be able to access to public universities and TVET colleges for free.
The president said students from households with a combined annual income of R350‚000 or less will have their TVET college or university studies fully subsidized for first-years in 2018 and fully phased in over five years. There will also be "no tuition fee increment for students from households earning up to R600‚000 a year during the 2018 academic year".
Many a South African is digesting Zuma's statements with a pinch of salt. People are approaching this development with cautious optimism. What remains clear is whether the South African government will uphold these promises, after failing to meet similar promises. What also remains unclear is where such funds will come from.
At face value, this development is noble, and has been long overdue. The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) said the decision was "ground breaking". ANC Youth League president Collen Maine dismissed claims that it was a move for the sole purpose of garnering cheap political points.
The Economic Freedom Party (EFF), one of the main robust, firebrand and controversial opposition parties in South Africa expressed skepticism over the development. "There has to be a concrete plan on how infrastructure within higher education and training sectors is going to happen. Implementing free education means there will also be huge numbers that want to access higher learning institutions," said EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
The main problem seems to stem from the fact of who will bear the brunt of the financial burden required to sustain this project. "Zuma has not indicated where all the money will come from to fund education. We believe that there has to be war against tax avoidance, particularly in the extractive industries, to combat illicit financial flows and tax base erosion," Ndlozi added.
It is yet to be seen if South Africa delivers their promise and if it will be done in a way that everyone will benefit without the poor suffering more.