This is a submission to the 2016 Tsogo Alumni Society Essay Competition. The essay is the learners work and has gone through some minimal editing for presentation.
Author: Kelebogile Seleke
Grade: 11B, Tsogo Secondary School
Title: Is there such a thing as “free education”? Could this “free education” be achieved by non-fee paying schools (like Tsogo Secondary) and “free” higher education as espoused by the #FeesMustFall movement?
“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine and that a child of a farmworker can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another” these are the words of the late President Nelson Mandela.
Education, a vital tool that one can possess in life.
I believe that no child should be denied education due to the inability of affording fees. South Africa is classified as a developing country in the world, which means that it is striving to become more socially and economically advanced amongst other things, the country’s economy has been on a steep incline since democracy was obtained in the year 1994, which begs the question “where is this incline coming from?” If we look at the trends and follow the right paths of growth we will see that South Africa is rapidly growing due to the number of more skilled individuals who are coming from school, who have this very expensive thing we call education. If this is the case, then why is South Africa not ensuring that enough people can attain this luxury?
After all, it is in the best interest of a country to have more educated people. The renowned economist Dawie Roodt once said in an interview that “South Africa is still far from reaching the implementation stage of free education system at higher learning institutions due to economic instabilities grappling the country.”
In 2015 South Africa faced a myriad of protests concerning fees for tertiary education. The popular protest known as #FeesMustFall, brought a wake-up call upon the government that indeed fees need to fall. The president, Jacob Zuma declared a 0% increment on tertiary fees. If it was possible to declare a 0% increment for one year, what ‘economic instabilities’ are stopping a decrement in fees every year or two until the ultimate goal of free education is reached?
The ANC political party, during the election campaign, promised the citizens that it will implement free education once it is in power. ANC is facing a challenge, as there are departments such as health, water and all sorts that also require money; hence should free education be declared most of the departments will suffer.
Underprivileged students who have passed matric well are being assisted by companies that offer them scholarships and bursaries. The government also aims to help by providing National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to needy students. Charles Darwin’s law of natural selection states that “survival of the fittest, elimination of the weakest.” We need to come to a realization that not every learner can go to varsity without paying a cent. The fees that students pay at tertiary institutions are being utilized to pay lectureres, tutors, laboratory equipment’s, books and computers. The South African state is not able to pay for all those in all the higher institutions in South Africa.
Tsogo Secondary School is ranked in the first quintile, which is declared as a non-fee paying school. Such schools receive money from the government known as section 21.The money is not enough to cover the basic expenditure and requirements needed by the school. Most of the schools are dilapidated as there is no money to repair the infrastructure. It is sad to see most learners sharing textbooks and during exams it becomes a problem as to who gets to keep the book. Learners are not able to perform science experiments practically they end up doing them theoretically due to lack of laboratory equipment.
Schools like Tsogo Secondary do not have enough funds to affiliate for sport and extra mural activities. Non-fee paying schools are at times forced to ask for donations from parents, alumni, and other companies to be able to sustain the school. Free education cannot be achieved in a developing country like South Afric, it inhibits schools to perform on a greater level due to insufficient funds allocated by the government. The government acquires most of its funds from tax. It is not equitable to have free education. People who can pay educational fees ought to do so. If education was free, we would essentially be taking money from every tax payer including those in the poor class and use it to help the middle and upper class people to be able to further their studies at higher institution that indeed is not equitable.
Tax payers in South Africa are already overburdened. Implementation of free education would deprive tax payers and companies that pay tax would resort to retrenching employees in order to minimize costs. The level of unemployment would slightly increase and due to inflation the cost of living would be high, people would not be able to meet their basic needs. The level of crime would increase as people would want to find a quicker way to make money. The society won’t be at peace as the level of protest would also increase as people would not be satisfied by the conditions in which they will be forced to live in.
The government needs to provide services to its people. In the beginning of the year the minister of finance allocates money to each department. John Dalberg-Acton once said that “power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” in our country we have a high rate of corruption, people misuse their power wrongly. People who are not qualified get jobs easily due to nepotism. The money allocated by the government for education does not serve its purpose, it is in most cases lost in the hands of corruption. Free education cannot be achieved with the level of corruption that is in our country.
With that being said, there is no such thing as “free education” as soon as you hand out education for free the overall value of that education would fall hard and fast in a downward spiral.