The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has called for free higher education by 2018. Despite the outcomes looking unfavourable for those calling for free higher education now, youth league president Collen Maine told the Mail & Guardian at the ANC policy conference on July 1 that they would persuade the conference to implement fee-free higher education in 2018 for poor and working class students.
The ANC’s sub-committee, which is currently looking into fee-free higher education, only sees it becoming a reality in the next three years. According to the Mail & Guardian, the discussion documents of the sub-committee on education, health, and science said that a funding model that supports qualifying poor, working-class, and middle-class students must be implemented by 2020.
ANCYL national spokesperson Mlondi Mkhize says the youth league believes it can be done sooner. “We believe that next year government can start introducing free education for the poor and the needy, and those that can afford, their parents should pay for them,” he said. The ANCYL sees free education as key to tackling the challenges facing the youth of the country. “As a result, we can’t compromise on free education. We want it and we will try our level best to pursue it at the policy conference.”
Mkhize said it would be possible for government to implement free higher education if it prioritised higher education in its budget and the private sector was roped in. “They are equal beneficiaries of graduates of many universities and institutions. They can’t just fold arms and hands when they make money out of South Africans and the youth.”
The ANCYL is certain that the upcoming Fees Commission report will have positive results and affirm the necessity of free education. “We believe that we have persuaded the commission in our presentation,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said the Youth League has been lobbying support for free education during the policy conference. “We have been engaging many provinces throughout the ANC, including the Women’s League, and we seem to be finding each other.” On 26 June, the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal adopted a free education proposal at its three-day provincial general council at the University of Zululand.
However, the ANCYL calling for free higher education doesn’t mean that they will be joining the Fees Must Fall movement anytime soon. At the beginning of 2016, Maine called for state security to investigate the movement as he said it had a counter-revolutionary agenda.
“Free education has got nothing to do with the Fees Must Fall movement… What the president [of the ANCYL] was saying is that the cause was genuine but there are people in the Fees Must Fall movement that began to exploit the need and the genuine cause of the students to project a programme for regime change,” said Mkhize.
Hopefully all the lobbying being done by the young ones at the ANC policy conference, which ends on Wednesday, will be enough to convince the elders that fee free-higher education is a possibility for the generation who desperately need it in the coming years.