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Jonathan Jansen: Providing Free Higher Education for Poor Students is a Matter of Great Moral Urgency

How to Fix South Africa's SchoolsWe Need to ActJonathan Jansen, University of the Free State vice-chancellor and rector, has written a column for The Times commenting on the ANC’s position with respect to education.

Jansen talks about the ANC National General Council and what they had to say about education in relation to what is currently happening in South African schools. He discusses the plight of rural schools, the desperate need for effective education inspectors, the need for teachers to be at school for a full working day and the recent rumblings about introducing Mandarin as a school subject.

Commenting that “what is not said by a political party is often more important than what is said”, Jansen laments the ruling party’s silence regarding tertiary students’ high fees. This is an issue that has been dramatically brought to the fore by the #WitsFeesMustFall protests at Wits University this week.

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It is a real pity that the ANC’s National General Council did not take a strong, unequivocal position on free higher education for the poor. This must be a commitment or the cycles of discontent and violence at some universities will continue to plague campuses.

Of course, this will require re-ordering priorities in government spending but nothing is more important than long-term investments in human capital, especially for those who need it most – talented young people from the poorest families. The provision of free higher education for such students is no longer only a policy issue but a matter of great moral urgency.

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