If you ask me, education is the most important thing in the world. Well, at least one of the most important things in the world. And even more so in South Africa. Which is why I am happy to hear that free education for poor university students has moved up a tad on the government’s priorities list.

Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, needs advice on how to provide it, however. So a ministerial committee has been set up – lead by Marcus Balintulo, vice-chancellor of Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science.

According to the Mail & Guardian, “the government’s R2-billion bursary and loan scheme for poor students, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), has been repeatedly criticised for the inadequacy of the amounts it provides and for not disbursing all the funds at its disposal.”

The biggest question now is: How do we define poor? Who qualifies and who doesn’t? Personally, I don’t think any money going towards educating our future politicians, doctors, engineers and social workers is wasted. In fact, educating anyone in any field of work is never a waste.

Education is the knowledge of putting one’s potentials to maximum use. And we’ve all got potential. We just need to know how to use it. Sometimes we even need to be taught how to use it. Or at least get help to fulfill it and develop it. But most importantly of all, we need to be able to afford to use it.

So let’s hope our new government is less talk and more action, which will allow tertiary education to become a reality for those South African youngsters who really can’t afford it.

“Next in importance to freedom and justice is education. Without education neither freedom nor justice can be permanentely maintained.”
James A. Garfield
American President (1831-1881)

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