President Zuma Announced Free Education For Poor and Middle Class Students Starting from 2018

President Zuma has responded to the Fees Must Fall campaign with a major announcement on student fees for varsity and college students.

President Zuma has made a surprise announcement that poor and middle class students will be fully funded for university and college education.

In a statement on Saturday the President has announced changes to the funding of post-school education but gave no details on how the policy would be funded. The changes are expected to cost R12,4 Billion in 2018.

With changes to the definition of ‘poor and middle class’, over 90% of SA households will now have access to free higher education.

The new programme will begin next year and be phased in over 5 years. NSFAS loans will be converted to grants that don’t have to be paid back. The grants will cover tuition, study material, food, transport and accommodation.

The Director General of the Department of Higher Education and Training was confident that the institutions would be ready to roll our these plans at the start of 2018. He praised the announcement as it was putting more investment into the system and would ensure that education would be accessable for more poor families.

This decision is a culmination of many engagements with the inter-ministerial committee and other departments and roleplayers. The DG was confident that universities and colleges had already been in discussion with his department ahead of the announcement so would be able to implement the policy for next year’s intake.

There will be no fee increased next year for students from households earning up to R600 000 per year.

The statement from the President was released just ahead of the ANC’s elective conference where the party’s next leader will be chosen.

Some of the major elements of the announcement include:


The matter in relation to the management of NSFAS debt due to its complexity will be dealt with by the Minister of Higher Education and Training after due diligence has been undertaken by the Department of Higher Education and Training; Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and the National Treasury to determine the quantum of funding required.


• Grants for poor and working class South African students at universities and TVET colleges will continue to be managed and administered by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme through their recently completed student centred-model.


• The building of new student accommodation and refurbishment of old student housing at both universities and TVET colleges will be given urgent attention, with priority given to Historically Disadvantaged Institutions.


• Government will further investigate the viability of “online and blended learning” as an additional mechanism to deal with capacity challenges across the PSET sector.

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