ANC proposes free tuition for South Africa's poorest students

Secretary general of ruling party wants government to provide "fully subsidised grants" to low income families

August 1, 2017
South African rand

South Africa's ruling party has announced that it wants the country's government to provide free university education to the poorest students from the 2018 academic year.

Gwede Mantashe, secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC) made the announcement on 31 July, following a lekgotla – a meeting called by government to discuss strategy planning – held over the weekend.

“Fully subsidised grants should be provided to academically qualifying poor students,” Mr Mantashe said. “Poor students are defined as coming from families who earn a gross family income of R150,000 [£8,571] and below per annum.”

The ANC said tuition for students whose families earned between R150,000 and R600,000 per year should be subsidised through a combination of grants and loans, News24 reported. The recommendation comes ahead of findings by a commission established to investigate the feasibility of free higher education. The commission has until 30 August to release its findings.

“Students will be required to maintain adequate academic performance, and failure to do so would lead to disqualification,” Mr Mantashe added.

The ANC government has come under pressure from within its own party and from students to provide free education. In late 2016, violent protests against increasing tuition fees on the campuses of a number of South Africa’s universities threatened to disrupt the end of the academic year. 

The ANC's youth wing – the ANC Youth League – had called on the government to announce the implementation of free education by 2018 at the party's national policy conference.

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