2010 will be a year both of consolidation and of review and formulation of plans for 2011.
Minister Blade Nzimande faced Justice Malala’s penetrating questions on the Justice Factor – the Sunday morning “must-view” show at 09h30 on eNews channel.
What has the ANC achieved since they took over? Yes, they’ve implemented outcomes based education but why is it necessary for universities to conduct their own assessments of students? Justice said that matric results don’t seem to have improved at all since he matriculated – 20 years ago.
Minister Nzimande said that they welcomed any additional assessments which universities could do to ensure that academically capable students weren’t excluded from furthering their education.
He emphasised however that it is important to give credit for the vast improvements in access to education. Yes, improvements are needed, but this must be a joint effort. We must all contribute to improving education.
He personally has met with HESA and the various student organisations in order to make this year’s intake smooth, and his department will be monitoring enrolment. Where there are problems raised his department is acting upon them.
What about funding for university and technical students? Justice referred to this week’s press release – the report on student funding has been deferred to month-end – now this is too late for this year? And what about the former chairman’s report – submitted by Mr Pityana 2 years ago?
There’s never been an extensive review of the NSFAS and even if it had been received in December, that would still have been too late for this year. Minister Nzimande anticipates the report being released for public comment in March, and that improvements would be in place for 2011.
2011 – that’s 17 years after coming to power? Minister Nzimande again stressed that although there are further improvements which will be implemented in 2011 – this does not mean that nothing has been achieved to date.
Will 2010 be about preparation rather than implementation? No there are areas being built upon and there are additional areas being planned for implementation in 2011.
Moving to skills development, artisan training and Setas Justice quoted the 5,600 artisans for this year. Minister Nzimande confirmed that the challenge will be to get placements for the artisans. In addition there will be 35,000 learnerships. The objective is to synergise the work between universities of technology, Setas and the FET colleges.
Justice asked: what about the Setas – there are allegations such as tenders being given to friends – is this being addressed?
Minister Nzimande assumed responsibility for Setas from 1 November 2009. He stated that 2010 will be a target year to relook at the Seta landscape – in co-operation with Setas and that his department will act decisely on Setas on when they become aware of allegations of corruption – or those that are unable to spend the money received. However, it is important that we don’t paint all Setas with the same brush – some are doing relatively well.
His department has concrete agreements with all Setas – they are required to sign a Service Level Agreement – and his department will set up a monitoring and early warning system.
But will they fire people – or will there be golden handshakes & long-term suspensions? Minister Nzimande cautioned that Setas are run by boards – not his department – however his deparment will intervene with the boards to ensure performance.
Ultimately, what his department is trying to achieve is that academically capable students are able to further their education and technically oriented students are able to achieve technical qualifications.
Finally, Justice asked about reports of political infighting amonst alliance partners. Minister Nzimande discounted these reports which he beleves have been exaggerated – side shows to distract – the alliance is working better than in a long time.
So we look forward to the department of higher education and training having a constructive impact in two major impact areas – student funding and Seta performance.