Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh believes free higher education is a possibility

The question over whether or not South Africa can afford free education has been a longstanding one.

In his new and debut book, activist and author Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh considers the prospects of free and/or affordable fees.

Mpofu-Walsh writes: The term is sometimes used to describe affordable fees. Others mean that the whole educational experience is free, including meals, accommodation, books, study materials, travel and a stipend for living expenses. Still, others mean free tuition: no student would have to pay for their courses. I will focus on free tuition, which is the first step to a fully free educational system and the most achievable policy option in the short term.

I think we're stuck in this rut between thinking we have to provide free education for everyone tomorrow - or doing nothing and letting fees skyrocket in the meantime.

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, author and activist

What I try to do with this extract is highlight the short term interventions we can make in the direction of free education which would ease the burden on students and remedy the chronic instability that we've seen in the higher education sector for so long.

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, author and activist

We've been told by so-called economists, who I don't think have looked at the numbers properly, that this would be unaffordable and impossible. What if providing free tuition would be relatively cheap?

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, author and activist

Mpofu-Walsh further explains that those who need financial aid the most and are the poorest should be first in line for free education.

Once we've covered them and we've tested the programme out - then we can hold debates about whether we can roll out it to everyone or how far the bar should go, he adds.

He says to start with the needy, 400 000 student on the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), and then re-assess how it goes and have the data determine the next step.

Listen to the full interview in the audio clip below:


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