In January 2018 free education was implemented in all government tertiary institutions to students who met specific qualification criteria. This came to pass after protests and the #FeesMustFall campaign that started almost three years ago.
While many learners are benefiting from the implementation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)has queried the value in South Africa offering free tertiary education, and instead says the government should focus on spending money in primary and secondary education, as the country needs to place greater effort in having the basic education right instead of focusing on the higher end.
“South Africa needs to improve primary and secondary education so that people who end up in university are sufficiently trained to survive rigours, that is where more money should be spent,” said IMF senior resident representative Montfort Mlachila to City Press.
According to the IMF spokesperson spending more money at tertiary level through free education is missing the crucial issues. Students who do get tertiary education for free can afford it, even if it’s not immediately, he adds. This as they can afford it in the future by getting employed.
Mlachila noted that while the country had excellent universities, the number of graduates who achieved good marks especially in the crucial subjects such as STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is very low.
South Africa’s economy continued to underperform significantly compared with other emerging countries.The country’s overall level of general government debt is one of the highest among emerging economies. Low levels of private investment largely also contributed to low levels of business and consumer confidence, according to Mlachila.
“It’s remarkable to see a country not growing at all in income per capita terms, it means the poor are getting much poorer. One of the reasons South Africa is growing poorly is low levels and growth of private investments,” adds Mlachila.
The challenge is to get South Africa economy growing through structural reforms such as tackling corruption and strengthening governance, along with seeking strategic equity partnerships with the private sector in key network industries.
Added to this is restructuring weak state-owned enterprises and operating them commercially, ensuring compensation levels and their growth are in line with productivity growth, as well as reducing the cost of hiring and firing, and improving the quality of education, the spokesperson explains
“South Africa is one of the few emerging markets that has a positive net international investment largely explained by one major investment in Chinese internet company Tencent, IMF forecasts that sub- Saharan Africa will grow by 2.7 percent this year and 3 percent next year,” concludes Mlachila.