Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, on the occasion of the National Assembly Department of Higher Education and Training Budget Vote 2021
Honourable Chairperson Honourable Members Cabinet Colleagues present
Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Honourable Buti Manamela
Members of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology, led by Honourable Chairperson, Mr Philly Mapulane Director-General of the Department, Mr Gwebinkundla Qonde Chairpersons and CEOs of the entities
Heads of our Post School Organisations and Institutions Officials of the Department of Higher Education and Training Student leaders
Ladies and Gentlemen
This marks our third budget for the Department of Higher Education and Training since we commenced with the 6th Democratic Parliament.
I would like to once more pass my sincere condolences to all those in our sector who lost relatives, colleagues and friends due to COVID-19.
As a sector, we also had a calamitous event more recently at the University of Cape Town where an uncontrollable fire destroyed the repository of the Bleek Lloyd collection of recorded stories and notebooks of early colonialist engagements with the /Xam and! Kun Cape San people of the mid 19th century, as well as original copies of pioneering isiXhosa newspapers Imvo ZabaNtsundu.
In heritage terms, this is a catastrophic blow to us all.
One of the challenges we continue to confront is the issue of Gender- Based Violence and femicide.
In July 2020, I published in the Government Gazette the Policy Framework to address Gender-Based Violence in the Post-School Education and Training sector. This must be translated into practical plans of action by each institution and its stakeholders.
The PSET sector, like the rest of our country has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, our institutions have put in place health and safety protocols to ensure that we limit the spread of this virus in our PSET system.
This work is coordinated by Higher Health – our health and wellness agency.
In March this year I approved the strategy to support our intention to expand our online learning effort within the PSET.
In addition, both my Departments of Science and Innovation (DSI) and DHET, are working together to establish a National Open Learning System (NOLS) that will provide online learning opportunities in the PSET system.
The departments are also working to consider the Ministerial Task Team report on sectoral implications of the fourth industrial revolution, and of the Presidential Commission on 4IR.
In this regard, and as part of ensuring that no student is left behind, I am glad to announce that we have completed 97% zero-rating of our departmental and public institutions’ education sites for universities; TVET, CET, nursing, and agricultural colleges. This will enable free electronic access to lectures, resources, and other educational content.
Our Department is resolute in the expansion of our public university system, supported by a careful and systematic enrolment planning process that is in line with available resources, capacity and funding.
This process will ensure equitable participation supported by increased numbers of quality staff, affordable fees, inclusive and sustainable financial aid and improved infrastructure.
We will also intensify the implementation of the University Capacity Development Programme to improve student success, and the quality of teaching, learning and research and to support curriculum renewal in our universities.
We have also started with the feasibility study towards the building of two more universities; the university of science and innovation that will be located in Ekurhuleni Metro and the Crime Detection university in Hammanskraal. We have established steering committees for these projects under the leadership of one of my Special Advisers, Prof Derrick Swartz.
Our targeted goal for the TVET sector is to work towards producing TVET graduates who are work-ready.
We continue to improve our TVET system to ensure an enabling environment for quality teaching by having a competent teaching workforce which entrenches an enterprising culture among students. Currently fourteen (14) universities are developing TVET College educational and training qualifications. Eleven (11) programmes have already been accredited by the Council on Higher Education, three (3) are already being offered, and the other eight (8) are planned to be offered from this year.
Six (6) more universities will be rolling out their accredited Advanced Diploma TVT in 2022.
In addition, and working with the two main business organisations (BUSA & BBC), we are developing an online teaching and learning platform for TVET Colleges.
We are further inviting industry to forward people to serve on the councils and academic boards of our TVET colleges as part of strengthening partnerships towards producing work ready college graduates.
We have also approved (10) new and/or revised subject curricula for our TVET colleges for 2022.
I am also pleased to announce that after a two-decade struggle, we have finally eliminated the TVET college certification backlog.
Just over a month ago we had eliminated 95% of the certificate backlog – and would have reached 100%, but some of students who requested certificates do not qualify in terms of our standards.
In the new recent examination cycle, we have certified students within the required three-month turnaround time, and will henceforth maintain this level of service and timely production of certificates.
Most importantly more than 90% of our TVET college students are NSFAS funded thus providing free higher education for children of the poor and working class in our colleges.
The recently introduced Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (ERRP) as announced by President Ramaphosa in October 2020, stresses skills development, science and innovation as not only critical in driving South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery, but also key in sustaining it.
In support of this initiative, we have developed a skills strategy to support government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and the initiatives towards economic and social recovery. In this we are guided by the list of scarce skills and those in demand which I released last year.
The skills strategy will create a balance between the short- and long-term skills needs of the country and ensure that the skills system is strengthened with its implementation.
This strategy will target groups that are seeking employment; those who are employed and require upskilling/reskilling programmes and those who will be selecting careers in occupations where there are skills shortages.
We have also re-licensed our Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to provide decent opportunities for youth and adults through education and skills development initiatives.
We will continue to disburse the skills development levy for this purpose and we will continue to prioritise artisan development as per the target of the NDP that by 2030 our country must be producing 30 000 artisans a year.
We will also continue to prioritise Work Based Learning (WBL) opportunities through revised Service Level Agreements (SLAs) between the Department and all our SETAs, especially by increasing the number of unemployed learners participating in learnerships.
To further promote skills development, we have also entered into a joint initiative on promoting skills development with the German government.
This partnership seeks to help South Africa to build a modern, high quality and agile skills development system aligned with our needs in the 21st century. Underpinning such skills development will be an apprenticeship based TVET college system similar to the dual system in Germany.
This project will see more of our youth absorbed into workplaces, while getting the requisite technical skills, in a meaningful partnership between the PSET system and industry.
To expand access to Community Education and Training (CET) colleges, we are implementing an advocacy strategy to support CET colleges to meet their enrolment targets by attracting more youth into CET opportunities.
We continue to strive that community colleges expand their offerings beyond traditional academic programmes and offer skills programmes required by adults and communities.
The National Development Plan (NDP) requires the CET system to significantly increase its enrolments in appreciation of the challenge of youth who are not in education, employment and training.
The NSFAS approved budget for 2020/21 is R41.5 billion. This excludes the R6.4billion additional budget approved.
Following the shortfall experienced by NSFAS, we reprioritised our departmental budget to ensure that all deserving, NSFAS-qualifying students are able to receive funding for the 2021 academic year.
Irrespective of these challenges, NSFAS funding has increased more than fivefold just in 6 years, from R5,9 billion in 2014 to R34,7 billion in 2020.
In the current financial year, NSFAS funding is expected to reach over R43 billion – a further increase of nearly R10 billion in just two years.
In support of the expansion of access to the PSET system, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) will award bursaries to PhD students, and will pipeline postgraduate students.
The DSI will also be placing graduates and students in DSI-funded work preparation programmes in science, engineering, technology and innovation institutions in support of the initiatives towards ensuring the responsiveness of the PSET system.
This year NSFAS received approximately 799 017 applications, with 67% of the new applicants being SASSA beneficiaries.
There are 11 329 appeals received from rejected new applicants. A great improvement for 2021 is that students who are rejected are able to appeal immediately.
We are also examining new mechanisms, possibly backed by both public and private sectors, to support students in the so-called “missing middle” income bracket, and post graduate funding. In a matter of weeks, we will table for Cabinet consideration revised options for student funding, including for the “missing middle”.
In ensuring that students are further supported in their studies, NSFAS awarded supply and delivery tenders for laptops for NSFAS students to four (4) service providers on 5 November 2020.
However, surging global demand for laptops triggered by the pandemic meant that NSFAS could not meet its planned delivery of the laptop devices for 18 April 2021. NASFAS is therefore working on a revised timetable to deliver the laptops in batches until 30 September 2021.
As a department, we remain committed to strengthening and developing the PSET sector by investing in infrastructure to provide quality teaching, learning and research and innovation spaces.
The total amount currently available for investment in infrastructure projects across the 26 universities during the 2021/22 to 2023/24 MTEF period is R9.546 billion.
My Department will use this amount to invest in infrastructure projects that seeks to achieve the following priorities:
- Facilities for strategic study fields required to be responsive to the strategic priorities of South Africa;
- Digital transformation of universities;
- Effective and efficient use of existing university buildings and facilities as well as the refurbishment and renewal of dilapidated university buildings and facilities;
- Student housing;
- Regulatory compliance of aging buildings and facilities; and
- Projects that enable a holistic teaching and learning environment.
We will continue to prioritise infrastructure development at Historically Disadvantaged universities to ensure that maintenance backlogs are addressed and the quality of infrastructure delivery management is improved at these institutions.
My Department is currently in the process of reviewing the 2015 student housing minimum norms and standards to incorporate student housing at TVET colleges.
We will also use the Capital Infrastructure Expansion Grant to address the serious backlogs in infrastructure maintenance in TVET colleges, with particular focus on improving the teaching and learning environment.
Through the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme (SHIP), we have completed feasibility studies for about 14 000 student beds as part of its Phase 1 developments, spread over six public universities.
University of Fort Hare, one of the first institutions supported through the Phase 1 SHIP programme, has recently been completed and will be inaugurated on 31st of this month, this completing 1437 new beds in this institution alone at its Alice campus at the total cost of R400 million.
Phase 1 SHIP developments enabled an investment of about R3.5 billion, including the DBSA commitment R1.6 billion debt funding for 12 000 student beds
Phase 2 SHIP developments comprise of about 24 000 student beds that is made up of 12 Institutions (6 Universities and 6 TVET Colleges) in KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Western Cape, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Free State provinces.
Feasibility studies for these 12 institutions are underway and scheduled for completion by September 2021, with construction of these 24 000 beds planned to start in the year 2022.
As part of its 2 000 student beds development, Nelson Mandela University (NMU) also completed 200 student beds for its George Campus and currently constructing 1 800 student beds at its main campus in Port Elizabeth, which is expected to be completed in December 2022.
The University of North West and University of Western Cape are currently under construction for 2 700 and 1 700 student beds respectively with completion expected by end of calendar year 2022.
There are additional 5 500 student beds included in the SHIP Phase 1 development targeted for the University of Limpopo and Sefako Makgatho University, which are at mature stages of funding and are due for construction shortly.
In the course of this year, we will conduct comprehensive feasibility studies to determine the nature, scope, and locations of the new institutions. This will kick start the process for the establishment of the new universities.
Our budget has an annual average increase of 1,4% over the 2021 MTEF. Therefore, our budget for 2021/22 stands at R R115.596 868 billion.
Indeed, the budget cuts will slow down even faster movement in the expansion of post school education and training opportunities.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Honourable President, Deputy President, Cabinet Colleagues, Deputy Minister Manamela, the Chairperson and members of the Portfolio Committee for their support and guidance.
I also would like to thank the USAf, SAPCO, SAUS, SATVETSA, and our labour unions for working with us through the Ministerial Task Team to find a collective solutions to the challenges posed by COVID-19.
Gratitude also goes to my wife, my staff in the Ministry and to the entire Executive Management Committee and Staff of the Department, the Boards and Executives of our Entities, and everybody who contributed toward the achievement of our mandate as the department.