SA students not only protesters

While South Africa experienced volatility over student calls for free education, students in Chile were also out on the streets making the same demand.

This was said by education researchers and academics attending the 17th Global Development Network conference in Lima, Peru last week.

They said the problem was that policies were designed to look after institutions and not students, who were abandoned financially.

Many institutions in the Philippines, SA, Chile and Peru were under pressure to demand money from penniless students.

The conference heard suggestions that educational policies had to be rewritten to take care of students and eradicate their financial misery.

In an interview with the Saturday Dispatch, economist Professor, Gustavo Yamada of the University of the Pacific (Universidad del Pacifico) said free education was needed but “should be weighed up” against real need.

“Education is expensive and it’s difficult for students to buy textbooks and afford other learner materials for their courses. This means that many will drop out. A plan or a policy revisit should be looked at, but it must not be a free-for-all,” said Yamada.

The conference was told that students from disadvantaged backgrounds had a much higher drop-out rate and this problem had to be fixed.

“There are budget constraints as well. It can’t be allowed that there’s no contribution from students,” said Yamada.

Flavio Figallo, vice-minister within the Peru education ministry, said universities should treat loans to students as a business.

“Money should be paid back.”

In January, higher education spokesman, Khaye Mfenyana said the department had distributed R2.3-billion to different higher educational institutions “to assist with the fees for the students”.

An additional R4.5-billion would be spent on settling loans for partially funded students which has grown since 2013.

A further R10-billion was paid to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme which is to be rolled out to students who qualify for financial support

“That means that R16.9-billion has been spent by the department this year alone,” said Mfenyana.

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