University Students understand our Government’s obligations better than our Government does.
Without wanting to sound patronising I am exceptionally proud of the quality of our youth. Their true mettle is shining through, despite their bad education and the fact that our Government has done everything it can to mess them up, to try and dumb them down. What we have seen over the past few weeks is nothing except heroic and not just from those students in need who understand how it is their parents and ultimately they as future parents who will suffer if nothing is done about this problem now. I am equally proud of those children who didn’t have to put their necks on the line, who can afford to pay for their University enrollments but who know that they do not live in a vacuum and need to show solidarity on the issue.
I believe very much in timing and am pleased to say that the challenge before Government is not a very complicated one. The pieces of the puzzle are all in-place and these Student Strikes are surely the catalyst to force the Gestalt, the big picture to come shining through?
Can the Department of Higher Education and Training find the money to pay for Student Education within funds, which are already available to them? The answer is simply yes.
If we acknowledge that Governments role is procedural rather than substantive and that if Government understands its priorities, then I believe that the stars have conspired to align so that things finally make sense now.
The starting point is this mantra:
A Government has the obligation, where it has the resources to fund for the young and regulate for the adult.
We need urgently to have a regulated platform which directed training and developmental policy from birth to death so that every section of the Formative, Educational and Professional Vocational sectors know where they stand, via the integrated device of policy standards and monitoring and enforcement (the role of Government), with the fiscal understanding from Treasury of precisely where Tax Income was to be spent in that policy journey, not simply to support the development and iterative process of policy formation but to be available to fund completely the beneficiaries who are school children and University entrants so that their parents get a return on their lifetimes worth of paying Tax, Vat and working for skimpy wages to make ends meet.
Here is the silver bullet though. If the stars of Treasury and DHET align in this regard up to the end of the student either attaining a Trade Qualification, or their Undergraduate qualification from University, then the obligation for funding falls away from Government and easily becomes assumed by the Business Sector.
Before I am unnecessarily lynched by the Business Sector let me explain that what I am saying is that if Government accepts its responsibility to completely regulate and fund the development of the student from Birth up to the stage of entry into the workplace (and I am saying that it already has the money to do this) then Business is in a position to take over the funding of the young entrants further development in the workplace and Organised Business and Labour as Bargaining Councils and-the-like have the capacity to properly regulate that development and life-long education and training up to retirement of those young people.
Money is available to Government. I say that because we already have sufficient budgets available, if properly deployed and managed, for the Birth to Matric Phase of development of the child. I must reiterate this. We have enough money to provide free education from Birth to Matric within the Public School and Education Sector in South Africa. We can provide FREE education at these levels if we understand management and dissemination principles and we understand the role of Government as a policy, monitoring and evaluation competency. More procedurally focused than substantive. To do this though we need to have faith in delegated competencies at a School level.
The magic wand up to the stage of the Undergraduate Qualification or the Trade is a combination of these 3 factors.
Firstly the massive opportunity to lean on the Private Schooling and University Sector to relieve the Treasury Department of having to pay for the education and schooling of children whose parents are willing and able to pay for Private Schooling itself. At least 400 000 children and young adults are therefore taken directly out of the funding equation this way every year. Although it is getting harder and harder for parents whose children are in Private Schools to be able to afford to fund schools who absolutely do not receive any State subsidy, these are ultimately choices and these parents, with help from Treasury can make do.
The second factor is the fact that Companies already pay a Tax, which supposedly is there to create pools of pre-qualified and skilled candidates ready to enter the World of Work. This is the Skills Levy. I agree with those at Treasury who are calling for the Skills Levy to be used to fund students. I believe that if properly directed and managed in-house by an efficient, non-corrupt and visionary Department of Higher Education and Training the use of the Skills Levy, combined with funding which is already budgeted and available from the State Treasury, can more than cover the costs of Vocational Education and Training from Grade 10 to the end of the Undergraduate or First Trade Years.
The beautiful catalyst which has already been agreed to by all of the Social Partners, namely Government, Labour and Business, is to be found in the new BBBEE Codes, which have already been implemented since mid 2014. It is the requirement for companies to have to spend 6% and no longer 1% on the Education, Training and Development of people in and for the workplace.
To do this we would be asking Business to trust the DHET to take care of the first 1% of Payroll paid via the Skills Levy, in-exchange for having work-ready Tradespeople and University Under-Graduates available to enter the World of Work, where Organised Business and Labour can then take over the responsibility for further developing and nurturing these people into the workplace.
Organised Business and Labour would then have another 5% of either direct or indirect funding available to it via the Legislative Framework, which already now exists, to ensure both that those already in the workplace are properly catered for and not marginalized because of the “Birth to M+3 Policy Framework” focus on the youth and their pathway into the workplace, as well as fund the proper, ordinary and monitored entrance into the workplace of those being fed from the system I have previously described, i.e. the young Trades and Undergraduate stream of supply.
To the un-initiated what I have written in this article may seem complicated. To make it simple let me end by saying that we already have the tools and the structures, both in Government and in the Private Sector to ensure that by the end of 2016, every Grade 1 to Grade 12 child who needs to be catered for within the Public Education Sector, within the Trade Training Vocational Sector and up to the level of obtaining Undergraduate Qualifications from Universities, can be fully funded by Government. After that the Organised Business Sector have the structures and tools to take over the funding and life-long-learning of those people to retirement.
What we require simply stated, is both the unselfish Political Will and Goodwill to achieve these outcomes.