Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has called on formations that represent students at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to engage with the department to resolve legitimate issues.
The call follows word received by the department from some TVET college principals that some student formations intend taking action over a range of grievances once the term starts.
Minister Nzimande, however, stressed that while students have the constitutional right to protest, they must do so peacefully. He said those who wish to continue teaching and learning also have the constitutional right to do so unhindered and without intimidation.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Minister Nzimande said considerable progress has been made since the department took over 50 colleges in the sector less than two years ago.
“TVET colleges have been and remain on a continual road to improvement since we unified structures and management. Nevertheless, we are aware that there is still a way to go until the institutions are at peak performance in terms of delivering on their mandate of empowering young people across the country with the skills and knowledge they require to become useful and active participants in their local economies,” Minister Nzimande said.
He said bringing the sector into a centrally managed and guided framework was a very important step towards ensuring that they create and sustain real and viable alternatives to a university course for young people who want to gain a post school skill, but who may either have not achieved a university pass or who may not have the inclination to pursue a course of academic study.
“The department inherited a very mixed bag because some of the provinces had done better than others in ensuring that the sector could be expanded to accommodate the many thousands of previously excluded young people, while ensuring that new entrants received the kind of training and support which could [give] them the skills the job market is looking for,” the Minister said.
He said the department is still in the process of ensuring that the right procedures are used when processing students and some institutions need further help to get on track in ensuring that students who qualify also receive their certificates quickly.
“We are determined not to let this situation go on for longer than is absolutely necessary, and we are working with the college authorities and other relevant institutions such as SETA [Sector Education Training Authority] to rectify any deficiencies.
“The department had demonstrated its very significant commitment to growing and improving the sector through substantial infrastructure investment. In addition, funding for TVET students via NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] has risen dramatically since the department was founded 10 years ago,” said Minister Nzimande.
Financial support for TVET students
In 2007, only 12 283 students in TVET colleges were supported through NSFAS. Last year this figure reached 256 904.
Government has also increased the funding available to TVET students in the same period, from R66.7 million to over R2.3 billion last year.
This year, TVET colleges will make 207 510 places available to new entrants. This includes 142 484 students interested in studying towards a National Diploma in Engineering or Business Studies.
Another 65 026 places will also be available across 19 programmes for the National Certificate (vocational), which provides theory and practical experience in a range of vocational fields.
“The National Skills Fund will continue to invest in TVET colleges, focusing on funding around 15 000 learners each year in programmes linked to scarce and critical skills areas, especially with regards to artisan development,” the Minister said