Higher Education: Minister's Budget Speech
Budget Vote speech by Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande
In memory of the fallen heroes and heroines of the Seven Day War
My Honourable Cabinet Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
This budget vote debate of the newly created Department of Higher Education and Training takes place on the 20th anniversary of a significant but tragic event that affected thousands of families in Pietermaritzburg. ‘The Seven Day War’, named by the late Cde Harry Gwala, started on the 25th March 1990 and ended on 31st March of the same year. It was a war waged by the apartheid regime against the ANC, hardly two months after its unbanning and the release of Nelson Mandela, to try and prevent the ANC from re-establishing its legal structures in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. It was the largest mass attack ever witnessed in the history of KZN and indeed our country as a whole. Marauding gangs of impis, in open collusion with the apartheid police, maimed, killed and burned. I therefore wish to dedicate this speech to the hundreds of people who died during this massacre and the thousands who live with the memory of it, and hope that new integrated system of education and training we seek to build will in one way or the other benefit the children and relatives of those who fell. It is partly for this reason that I invited pupils from some of the Edendale schools, the area which was the primary target of this massacre.
A new post-school system to respond to youth and adults to accelerate skills development
The new higher education and training landscape represents an important shift towards expanding post-school opportunities. Working together with stakeholders, we are determined to build a solid base for a post school education and training system that will be the lifeblood of the social and economic development of our country for generations to come.
I wish to acknowledge the leadership of President Zuma in creating these possibilities, and the foundation laid by my predecessors. Through continuity with their innovative policies we will strengthen the system, but some significant and decisive changes are required to build a truly integrated system of education and training with quality and high throughput rates.
The twin challenges of high unemployment and a critical skills shortage must be tackled. The work of this department is central in the achievement of decent work as well as the realisation of other government priorities. While there are no instant solutions, the cycle of poverty and hopelessness must be broken as soon as possible. In every village and town, in every suburb and city centre, there are gifted people with broken dreams and no income, who do not qualify for jobs that must be filled. For this evolving system to meaningfully contribute to the lives of individuals, to the economy and to broader society, we are striving to ensure that all the work of our department is underscored by addressing five key interrelated issues – class, race and gender, as well as HIV/AIDS and disability.
I am proud to say that we now have a five-year strategic plan to systematically strengthen the skills and human resource base of our country. We will draw on the knowledge, ability and experience of all stakeholders in the sector. Our point of departure is simple: education and training is a common public good which must not be sold and traded as a commodity, where only those with money and other resources will be able to afford it. Only by providing equal opportunities for all, irrespective of social background, can we contribute towards building a nation in which everyone has a stake and a common loyalty.
Government’s prioritisation of education is evident in the budget allocation of 19.9% of the total national budget to education and training. Vote 16 has received R32 144 926 000 of which R8.4bn is a direct charge against the national revenue fund and goes to our Sector Education and Training Authorities and the National Skills Fund. Universities receive R17.5billion for the 2010/11 financial year. R3.8billion is allocated for Further Education and Training (FET) colleges. R2billion is allocated to our public entities of which R1.9billion is allocated to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). The remainder goes to the South African Qualifications Authority and the Council on Higher Education. In the next financial year, NSFAS will disburse R2.7billion in loans and bursaries.
Honourable members, 98.78% of our budget is allocated for transfer to institutions, our key partners. All of our partner institutions are responsible with us for the achievement of our transformation goals. We have with us today partners from universities, colleges, Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), and our other public institutions.
Mr Speaker, we are under no illusion about the scope of challenges confronting our education and training system. We have one education system comprising of the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training. Minister Motshekga in her budget vote speech on Tuesday committed to improving the schooling system. We will support her. The post-school system depends on the quality of basic education and its reach to every young person in this country, just as basic education is dependent on DHET providing, for instance, quality teacher education, especially the production of foundation phase educators.
Aligning education and training to our overarching human resources development strategy
The programmes of our department must interface with the range of social and economic development strategies across all spheres of government. We are creating necessary synergies with the National Industrial Policy Framework; the Industrial Policy Action Plan; the Anti-Poverty Strategy; the Rural Development Strategy; and the Technology and Innovation Plan. The over-arching framework for all our work is the Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa (HRD-SA), led by the Deputy President and managed by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
The HRD-SA will improve alignment and ensure that all players in human resource development from government, civil society sectors, organised business, labour, professional bodies and research communities reinforce and complement the work of others. The HRD Council will be launched next week, a momentous development in driving skills development.
Central to the realisation of the goals of the HRD-SA is the alignment of its subordinate strategies. One of these is the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) which directs the skills levy. I have extended NSDS2 for a further year and requested SETAs to closely align their programmes to the FET colleges and placement of these students through learnerships and apprenticeships. My department is submitting a draft NSDS3 framework to the National Skills Authority (NSA) next month. This will include a skills strategy for rural development which I am undertaking in partnership with Minister Gugile Nkwinti. The Executive of the NSA is here today, and I thank them for their commitment.
The absence of adequate career guidance and information contributes to high dropout rates in post-schooling career choices. I am pleased to announce that by the end of June SAQA will launch a comprehensive national career advice centre through the medium of a career development helpline. This model will be accessible to learners across the system and will require coordinated actions across a range of departments.
We have to assist learners to move between learning and work. The skills levy funds will be used to incentivise firms to open up structured workplace learning for college students as well as for university and university of technology students. The State Owned Enterprises and other large employers have a special role to play in this regard.
Quality is a Central Concern
The mandate of the three quality assurance councils is central to our goals. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) which I launched last month has the mandate to address the quality of the training in and for the workplace, and to ensure that workplace training and knowledge is accredited and certificated, including proper recognition of prior learning. This is a huge victory for the labour movement which has been championing this for many years. Under the QCTO’s umbrella, the National Artisan Moderating Body will be established.
I am pleased to report that the implementation of the new National Qualifications Framework Act, implemented on 1 June 2009, is progressing well. It must complement the South African Qualifications Authority, the Council on Higher Education (CHE), Umalusi as well as the project team of the QCTO for the positive way in which the new Act has been embraced.
I also wish to inform the house that during this financial year, funding will be set aside to educate the public on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), to ensure that the wider public, especially our people living in rural and the poorest communities, fully understand how the NQF benefits them.
Artisan training and SETA transformation as the nerve centre of skills development
I will be taking a special interest in driving artisan training in this financial year. I will work intensively with the initiatives that are underway to strengthen artisan training. We will increase the numbers and the quality of skilled artisans, particularly in priority trades, through a synergy of strengthening FET colleges, SETAs work and business initiatives. A key priority will be to expand access to structured workplace learning and to develop partnerships to address artisan skill scarcity. I will also during this year address the long outstanding challenges of trade testing.
Efficient and Effective Sector Education and Training Authorities and the National Skills Fund
Honourable members, the SETAs are by far the most widely criticised of our delivery institutions. However I would like to commend 19 of the 23 SETAs for getting a clean bill of health from the Auditor General’s office and for their concerted efforts which have enabled us to meet many of our NSDS II targets.
During 2009, the SETAs registered 17 228 artisans in training and 109 351 workers completed training in scarce and critical skills through learnerships, apprenticeships and other learning programmes. Targets set in the NSDS were well exceeded and these numbers will rise this year. Targets of SETAs are for 19 288 artisans in training and 145 899 workers completing training in scarce and critical skills through learnerships, apprenticeships and other learning programmes. Over 13 000 graduates from education and training institutions will be placed by the SETAs to gain work experience.
For those SETAs which are not performing, decisive action will be taken to remedy the problem. A new SETA landscape will be adopted by the third quarter of this year after consultation with the NSA.
I believe that the National Skills Fund is a critical vehicle to provide urgently needed skills training for the under- and unemployed and for the informal sector. I take responsibility for this fund on 1st April and will immediately institute processes to address the concerns raised repeatedly by the Auditor General and the many frustrated beneficiaries. In the 2009/10-budget year, because of a complex transition to my department, a total of R1.12bn has not yet been committed. These funds must flow urgently and be utilised for the purposes for which they were intended. We will strengthen the capacity of the NSF to monitor and evaluate the impact of the disbursements made and we will address the problem of under-expenditure that has historically dogged the Fund.
Mr Speaker, we have come to understand that the university, vocational college and skills sub-systems have been planned with insufficient integration of the holistic needs of the economy. What is needed is knowledge and planning instruments for the system and research-based intelligence for strategic decision-making for the post-school system. The DHET will develop an integrated information system, including a comprehensive information base on both public and private institutions, individual learner records, and develop norms and standards for the collection and sharing of such information.
FET colleges as the mainstay of a publicly driven skills development college infrastructure
Honourable members, in line with President’s announcement during the State of the Nation Address, we are aggressively positioning the vocational college sub-system as the main platform of delivery for skills development training. We must dispel the perception of colleges as a “consolation prize” to university entrance and make them institutions of choice.
The difficulties experienced in this sector are being honestly confronted. We will convene a Round Table on 9th April of all stakeholders in the sub-system to address immediate challenges and assess what actions can be taken to support colleges. A comprehensive plan will be completed by August. This will include a clear time-frame for colleges to become an exclusive national competence as soon as is practically possible, addressing governance weaknesses, and developing action plans to ensure a smooth start of the 2011 academic year. We aim to ensure that the long-standing negotiations in the Education Labour Relations Council to address the conditions of service of college staff, is concluded before the end of April. We are aware of the concerns and issues raised in regard to the transfer of state paid employees to the employ of Colleges. I am committed to the agreement reached between government and the public sector unions at the recent Public Sector Summit. The commitment that we made was to build - through a policy process leading to legislation - a strong public sector system driven with public resources and in the case of Colleges this includes publically paid employees. It is our intention to begin consultations immediately to explore reabsorbing College staff.
The Adult Education and Training sector is a key component of our post-school education and training system. One of the most important tasks for the department this year is to pursue the establishment of a senior certificate, especially geared to the needs of adults.
Deepening Transformation of Universities
Mr Speaker, 2010 will be a defining year for the University sector, with targeted transformational interventions planned for this year. The Department is currently drafting the terms of reference for the appointment of a task team to review the funding framework of universities in South Africa. The review of the funding framework for universities will also focus on the special situation of historically disadvantaged universities, student fees and infrastructure needs.
A Ministerial task team headed by Professor Ihron Rensburg will study university student housing and assess the system’s need for additional accommodation, the quality of existing facilities and options for the financing of new student housing. This will go some way in improving throughput rates.
Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has agreed to assume the chair of a Health Sciences review committee which will result in the expanded production of desperately needed health-care workers. Working together with Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, we expect this committee to complete its work during 2010.
Mr Speaker, it is our intention to ensure that no University Council, SRC or university staff member has any financial interest in any university supplier or tender processes. I will institute a management review of tender procedures at all universities this year. This Ministry will place the fight against corruption across the entire system, including of SETAs and Colleges, as one of our key priorities.
The Ministry has allocated a total of R3,265 billion in infrastructure funds to universities for the 2010/11 and 2011/12 financial years. These funds will help universities to increase production of graduates in the critical areas of engineering, life and physical sciences, teacher education and health sciences. A total of R686 million of these infrastructure funds will be used to expand and improve student housing.
The State is the major investor in knowledge production and innovation and this capacity is located mainly in our universities. We will interrogate patterns of institutional capacity for research and scholarship. Whilst differentiation within the sector is needed, inequalities must be addressed. Together with the Department of Science and Technology and the sector, we will examine our gross national investment in research and its distribution across sectors and institutions. I am particularly concerned that we address the challenges faced by our historically disadvantaged universities and this will receive my dedicated attention. In discussions with the affected institutions, models will be developed to address the effectiveness of teaching and learning, the qualifications and research culture of the teaching staff, and institutional practices supporting research and scholarship.
For 2010/11, the amount of R 431 million has been allocated for teaching development grants to universities. The purpose of the grants is to improve graduate outputs. A further R 185 million is allocated for Foundation provision. These programmes are critical to achieve equity, access and success, as well as support for students who may need assistance.
Honourable members, a Higher Education Stakeholder Summit in April will provide a historic national platform for all those engaged in HE including managers, academics, students, workers, business and NGOs to explore challenges of transformation and the role of higher education in national development. This will include discussions of the Soudien report on racism and other forms of discrimination in universities.
Work towards the establishment of universities in Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape will continue this financial year. We are appointing two task teams, with representatives from these provinces, to explore appropriate university models for the needs of these provinces and come up with concrete proposals and timelines. Professor Cheryl de la Rey and Professor Thandwa Mthembu have confirmed their availability to Chair these teams and will interact on key issues.
Honourable members, you are aware the Ministerial Review Committee Report on NSFAS has been released. We are considering the recommendations of the Committee and will submit firm proposals to Cabinet by the end of August. There will be significant changes to NSFAS and this will be one of the key priorities for my department this year. I urge members of the public to study the recommendations of this report and assist us to shape the scheme to better serve our mandate to progressively deliver free education for the poor at undergraduate level.
A Green Paper and Development of African Languages
Mr Speaker, perhaps the most far-reaching assignment for the DHET this year is the production of a Green Paper surveying the higher education and training landscape and recommending policy and legislative changes needed to support our strategic objectives. I believe this process will lead to much-needed scrutiny and transformation of the entire sector.
I will also be establishing a Ministerial Panel to advise me on the teaching, research and development of African languages in universities, as part of the development of these languages in our education and training system and society as a whole.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the Director General, Professor Mary Metcalfe, my advisors and staff in the Ministry, senior management and workers in the department, and all other stakeholders for the sterling work and contribution they have made in the development and refining of the mandate of my department and preparing for the achievement of the outcomes contained in this budget vote speech. Let me also appreciate the unstinting support that I have received from President Zuma, my cabinet colleagues and the Higher Education and Training Portfolio Committee in navigating this complicated, yet exciting, new territory.
I thank you