Education is a fundamental right for everyone and the key to the future of any country. Among the top ranked countries in education quality, South Korea tops the list. Meanwhile South Africa, one of the most lucrative economies in Africa, is ranked 61 globally.
While South Korea’s economy is ranked the 12th largest in the world, this is fundamentally influenced by its education system that produces better-educated citizens. UNESCO states that a lack of qualification and skill not only affects growth, but also undermines the foundation that is needed for sustainable development. Tertiary learning helps to build skills and grow a healthy economy, which in turn benefits everyone. Therefore a country investing in the quality of its education is likely to be a global competitive economic state.
South Africa’s economy is ranked 61 on the WEF global competitiveness. This crisis reflects the need to upgrade the quality of education and equipping citizens with valuable knowledge and skills to be active and participate in the economy.
The current economic state in South Africa, despite negative political influences rating it down, is amongst the highest in GDP in Africa. Taking into consideration many factors influencing the social state of South Africa, the allocation of education in general, is amongst the challenges many countries are facing. Bringing in all national stakeholders, especially globe-trotting private players can significantly boost the annual budget of education in South Africa, which seems to be 90% by tax.
Free education can be anticipated in South Africa in this cooperative environment such as the principle of a cost-sharing model. Contrary to the current education system which requires students from historically economically disadvantaged populations to pay high amounts is not effective, as it has influenced high dropout rates, due to financial exclusions.
- Students with parents but they are earning less as reflected above
- Students with parents but they are not working due to unemployment.
- Students who do not have parents at all and do not have any person to pay for them or to provide social support.
- Students who live with above age guardians (pensioners) surviving on a social grant.
- Students who do have parents who are rich but these parents neglected them and these parents are not supporting them.
Thus, models of funding taking into note stakeholder return on investment have to secure free quality education to meet the competitive demands of their entity prospects. Enriching human capital is essential to boosting productivity of a country. The National Development Plan 2030 acknowledges that South Africa is presenting with critical shortages of good-quality doctors, engineers, information technology professionals etc.
Recognising universities as the nerve-centre of the country’s national development, the NDP further suggests that to solve both technical and managerial skills shortages, also noting partnership with universities and schools of management (p.45). The NDP admits that inadequate human capacity will constrain knowledge production and innovation. Universities therefore need to become nerve centres at the cutting edge of technology.
Inadequate tertiary standards are leaving students unequipped to meet the job market’s changing demands. As a result the country’s youth unemployment rate by 1.6 percentage points to 38.6%‚ with 58% of unemployed people aged between 15 and 34. After secondary education, South African citizens have the aim of advancing their education into tertiary level with the hope to be equipped to deal with a wide range of challenges and finding better opportunities.
Educated citizens are more able to compete on a level playing field with countries outside of South Africa, and more likely to be able to share knowledge in their communities. As such, education is a powerful tool for upliftment and change. However, such ambitions are disappointed more often than we realise. Short-sighted investment on quality education produces high costs for society in terms of uninformed consumption, crime, health and economic growth.
With the alarming high dropout rate at tertiary institutions, the cost of tuition and all other related costs, easily accounts for more than 50% of the family income. This excludes other living expenses such as mortgage, electricity, water, monthly expenditure etc. This means that the working class and missing middle cannot afford to pay for the tuition being charged by universities. These are deserving students who can change their future when given a chance to study.
Many capable students fall through the cracks of this problematic system for a variety reasons. Some examples include being financially excluded and being unable to get NSFAS, some drop out because of the social conditions at home, lack of academic support, and lack of accommodation or food. It is the system that needs a greater structural change to prevent this from happening. There must also be emphasis put on the quality element. The call is for free AND quality education. The academic project is fundamental to this process. The quality of our education need not be compromised in our pursuit to open up access.
Solution to funding free education:
Nationalisation of resources
South Africa is rich in high value natural resources such as Platinum, Gold etc. Global trading and profits can directly increase the education budget for the public. This concept is practiced in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, whom are not economically competitive, but specialise in producing high quality fields, medicine.
Companies, especially global trading, can invest more toward education using the benefit of exchanging currency with highly developed international businesses.
South Africa need to improve quality, strive for excellence and expand opportunities based on efficiency and equity. This means ensuring that disadvantaged youth enrol and succeed. Education is truly the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and equality; it sets the foundation for sustained economic growth. Let’s start investing in it more!